A TEN-man Newcastle Jets recorded one of the most courageous wins in the club’s history, beating A-League leaders Sydney FC 2-1 at a heaving McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night in a thrilling end-to-end contest.
The home side played nearly 80 minutes a man down after Roy O’Donovan was given a straight red card for striking Sydney defender Jordy Buijs.
But, spurred on by 18,156 faithful, the biggest home crowd in five years, the Jets found something special.
Dimi Petratos put the home side ahead in the 44th minute from the penalty spot. That goal was cancelled out by Bobo eight minutes into the second half.
But, against the odds, Andrew Nabbout produced another superb long-range effort to regain the lead.
At times, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was Sydney who were a man short.
Both teams had chances in a frenetic, tension-filled, final 15 minutes.
Daniel Georgievski made a miraculous goal-line clearance, chesting away a stinging shot from Adrian Mierzejewski, which took a slight deflection off the boot of Bobo.
The home side then lost skipper Nigel Boogaard to what appeared a serious knee injury.
Petratos and Riley McGree both went close for the Jets.
At the other end, time and time again, they threw bodies at everything in an amazing show of will.
The win was the Jets’ first in 16 games against Sydney and just the Sky Blues’ second defeat of the season, and third in two years.
If these teams are to meet again it will be in the grand final.
On Saturday night’s evidence, it is hard to see any other team forcing their way in.
A flyover by three F18 Hornet fighter Jets from the Williamtown Air Base before kick-off set the tone for an explosive contest.
The Jets made a bright enough start, before a moment of mayhem involving Donovan and the intervention of the the VAR saw the home side reduced to 10 men in the 13th minute.
The fiery front-man was involved in a tangle with Sydney defender Jordy Buijs that resulted in the Dutchman crashing dramatically to the ground and rolling around, seemingly, in agony.
Referee Chris Beath missed the incident but as Buijs was getting treatment, he received a message from VAR Craig Zetter. Beath then went to the sideline to view the collision and deemed that O’Donovan had struck Bujis in the side of the head and produced a red card, much to the aghast of a pumped-up crowd
Buijis became public enemy No.1 and was jeered every time he touched the ball.
Sydney FC midfielder Brandon O’Neill was the next player in Beath’s book for a late challenge on Daniel Georgievski as the game continued to simmer.
Mierzejewski sounded a warning shot when he swung in a freekick from the right, which beat everything bar the crossbar in the 28th minute
Ten minutes later Milos Ninkovic flashed a shot past the left post after a failed clearance by Jason Hoffman.
But incredibly, it was the Jets who took the lead just before halftime after another controversial call this time against Sydney FC.
Boogaard knocked a ball into the box and Beath ruled that Buijs had pushed Nikolai Topor-Stanley in the back. Replays showed there was contact, albeit minimal.
Furious Sydney captain Alex Brosque was given a yellow card for dissent before Petratos smashed the spot kick into the left corner.
The home side were given a standing ovation at half-time as an upset appeared possible.
Jets coach Ernie Merrick added more starch in the form of Ben Kantarovski for Wayne Brown at the break.
Sydney had the first chance of the second half but Brosque lifted the shot from close range over the bar.
Eight minutes later they were on level terms.
That man, Buijs, was involved again.
The stopper curled a freekick into the box for Bobo to nod past a stranded Jack Duncan for the Brazilian’s 22nd goal of the campaign.
The goal took wind out of the Jets and the fans but only briefly.
Three minutes later, Nabbout put the Jets back in front with a rasping drive from 25 metres. Sydney keeper Andrew Redmayne was slow to react and the shot buried in the right corner.