A DAZZLING cameo by Argentine Pato Rodriguez helped spark the Newcastle Jets to a gritty 2-0 victory over the Central Coast Mariners in the F3 derby at McDonald Jones Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Jets were second best for much of the round 15 contest.
But the introduction of the Argentine in the 54th minute and a red card to Mariners left back Josh Rose in the 73rd minute turned the tide.
Rodriguez, who arrived from Buenos Aires on Wednesday, brought the crowd of 13,127 to their feet with every touch.
The former AEK Athens flyer thought he had earned a penalty in the 75th minute after a collision with Antony Golec in the box. But Referee Kurt Ams ruled play-on.
Diimi Petratos finally broke the deadlock in the 82nd minute when he collected a Steve Ugarkovic cross and buried a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box.
Glen Moss produced a a great stop to deny Blake Power in the 86th minute before Rodriguez iced the win.
The 27-year-old intercepted a pass and then showed poise to stand up Ben Kennedy and slot home a cool finish
The win moved the Jets to 30 points, eight behind leaders Sydney FC, and extended the goal-scoring run to 15 games.
“No matter how we play we just have this ability to score goals,” relieved Jets coach Ernie Merrick said. “It makes a big difference when you have so many goal-scorers in your team. It was terrific to see Pato score on his debut. For me, he changed the game for us. We got more than we expected from him. I never thought he would change the game, play some quick accurate passes and be so comfortable on the ball. For the goal, he read the pass, intercepted the ball, then took his time and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.”
The Mariners played the final 17 minutes with 10 men after Josh Rose was given a second yellow card for tugging the shirt of Joe Champness.
His first booking came 10 minutes earlier when he pulled down Champness from behind.
Until that point, the visitors, who had a fierce southerly at their back, appeared the most likely.
Furious Mariners coach Paul Okon slammed the decision by Ams to give Rose a second yellow, describing it as a “crazy” and one “that gave the ascendency to the home side”.
“It was a terrible decision to send off Josh Rose. It gave the opposition, who I don’t think even had a kick of the ball tonight, the ascendency. tt was total domination from us from the first minute until the incident ... even when we were down to 10 men,we had chances to score. It was disappointing the derby ended like it did for one side, the other side get to celebrate ... for us, it is totally unjustified and that decision ruined the game.”
Merrick admitted the Mariners were the better side in the first half and that his side was guilty of playing “lazy, safe football.”
It was arguably the Jets’ worst opening 45 minutes of the season. Normally lethal in transition, they couldn’t get out of first gear.
Meanwhile, the Jets will be without exciting winger Joe Champness for two games and possibly three after he was called into Australian under-23s side to contest the Asian Championships.
Champness is a replacement for injured Wanderers attacker Josh Sotirio (hamstring) and flies to China on Wednesday morning.
The 20-year-old joins fellow Jets Nick Cowburn and Riley McGree, who is on loan from Club Brugge and is yet to play a game for Newcastle, in the 23-man squad.
“I’m thrilled for Joey, he’s been playing some wonderful football this season and thoroughly deserves this call up into the under-23 Australian squad,” Jets coach Ernie Merrick. “I was surprised he wasn’t taken first up.”
However, the Scotsman again questioned the purpose and timing of the tournament, which is not recognised by FIFA.