Jets frustrate Victory

Melbourne Victory is still searching for its first home win of the 2009/10 Hyundai A-League season after conceding a late equaliser against the Newcastle Jets at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night.


Melbourne Victory is still searching for its first home win of the 2009/10 Hyundai A-League season after conceding a late equaliser against the Newcastle Jets at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night.

And Victory's 1-1 draw was also marred by a serious knee injury to midfield playmaker Billy Celeski, who was carried from the field on a stretcher as early as the third minute.

Victory looked headed for only its second win in five matches this season after a magnificent header from Archie Thompson just before half-time but lost concentration and was caught out by an 86th minute header from Newcastle substitute Labinot Haliti.

Unfortunately Melbourne, which dominated the first hour of the game, ran out of legs after coming off a gruelling double road trip to North Queensland and Perth.

Already missing skipper Kevin Muscat and veteran striker Danny Allsopp due to hamstring injuries and well as Evan Berger to a groin problem and Costa Rican midfield star Carlos Hernandez to international duty, the last thing Melbourne needed was another injury but that is exactly what the home side copped after just three minutes.

Celeski rose for a header and landed awkwardly on his left leg and was carried from the field in agony with what Victory officials later confirmed as a knee injury.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick immediately sent veteran midfielder Grant Brebner on for the injured Celeski and despite the shock of seeing one of their most important players go down so early in the game, the home side soon took control against an opposition that offered little by way of an attacking threat in the first half.

However early goalmouth action was in short supply as Melbourne fans held their breath when experienced central defender Roddy Vargas was accidentally clattered into by Victory keeper Glen Moss in the 13th minute.

Vargas went down heavily but after leaving the field briefly to have a head wound bandaged, he returned and actually had Melbourne's first clear cut chance in the 27th minute when he almost appeared surprised to have a free header in the box only to put it wide.

It wasn't until the 34th minute that Newcastle - which last week handed new glamour club Gold Coast its first loss of the season - even had its first corner.

But despite dominating possession the breakthrough did not come for Melbourne until the 42nd minute when Leigh Broxham floated in a perfect free-kick from the right which Thompson was the only player to attack as he escaped his marker in Jets skipper Matthew Thompson and sent a pinpoint header into the far corner of the net.

It was the least Melbourne deserved for a dominant first half but the Jets were more of a handful after the break.

Moss was forced into a good save at close range from Jason Hoffman in the 63rd minute and after Ney Fabiano had a shout for a penalty refused in the 84th minute, the Jets stole a point their performance scarcely deserved when Haliti headed home from close range after a good cross from the right by Tarek Elrich to leave the Victory with just five points from five matches.

Melbourne Victory 1 (Thompson 42) Newcastle Jets 1 (Haliti 86) Thursday, September 3, 2009 Etihad Stadium Referee: Chris Beath Crowd: 15,168

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