The stage was set for grand final revenge under the lights in Newcastle, but the mood after the game felt all too familiar. A tight 1-0 loss at home, and an evening of frustration and missed opportunity.

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There was a lot at stake in the grand final replay. Both teams were winless after the first two rounds of the A-League and were desperate not to extend that streak to three games without a win.

In preparation of the game, Merrick was adamant that the players didn’t consider the contest to be a grudge match: revenge wasn’t in the mind of the players. It’s just another game right? Even if this was true, revenge was absolutely in the forefront of the mind for the fans.

There were poetic moments in the match that seemed to explicitly reference the infamous grand final as if it were written in a script. Shortly after the start of the second half, Kosta Barbarouses was slipped in behind, took it around Glen Moss and seemed to put Victory up 1-0.

Celebrations ensued, but were cut short by the linesman’s offside flag. Ironically, Barbarouses was the scorer of the infamous offside goal that won Victory the title in 2017/18 and was this time denied by the flag on the same turf in the rematch. It felt like a moment of divine intervention from the FFA gods and it seemed like the night might just pan out in favour of Newcastle as some kind of retrospective justice.

As we know, this isn’t quite how things panned out. Melbourne did very well (and you could argue were fortunate) to keep the Jets scoreless in their dominant first half. Jair and Vargas were putting on an absolute show and were consistently linking up and creating chances, but lacked the ruthlessness to really hurt Victory.

It makes you wonder, if Newcastle had a fit Vargas in the grand final, would things have panned out differently? Is it possible to suggest that the Jets players were subconsciously hindered by the prospect of revenge tonight? We know one thing is for sure: this game was a must win for both teams for two reasons.

  1. Both were winless in 2 games.
  2. The emotional and historical importance was real.

Victory seemed to control the emotional significance of the game in the second half. They seemed like the more mature team, and were able to defend Newcastle’s attacks effectively as Jair started to run out of juice.

Honda grew into the game and orchestrated attacking moves from midfield. Terry Antonis did very well to put away a half-chance on the edge of the box and after that, Victory were focused on defence and limiting Newcastle’s attacking threat. You could see that Newcastle were visibly frustrated not to have taken advantage of their attacking opportunities in the first half. After taking the lead, Victory smothered the game in a very professional manner to secure their first win of the season.

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After the game, there was an alleged handshake incident involving Ernie Merrick and Kevin Muscat. Both managers were reluctant to comment in the press conference and had contradictory accounts of the incident. The managers did not shake hands after the game, so it’s safe to say that there is definite friction between the two teams and their respective managers.

After all the subtext, all the emotions, and all the offside flags, Victory left McDonald Jones stadium as winners. Only this time, they can say they deserved it.

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Intern at The Football Sack covering The Newcastle Jets A-League and W-League home matches!