Soccer: Teenager flies high as Jets win second game in China on penalties

PROMISING: Jack Simmons, 16, scored a goal on his senior debut for the Jets. Picture:  Sproule Sports Focus
PROMISING: Jack Simmons, 16, scored a goal on his senior debut for the Jets. Picture: Sproule Sports Focus

JETS chief executive and youth team coach Lawrie McKinna has come to expect special things from promising midfielder Jack Simmons.

The home-grown 16-year-old scored off the bench in his senior debut to ice a 2-0 win over Chinese powerhouse Shanghai Shenhua in the Super Champions Cup in Haikou on Friday night.

“It was a great finish, very composed,” McKinna said. “Jack is a special player. Sometimes, young ones get nervous when they are around the first team. Not Jack, nothing fazes him. He rises to the next level.”

McKinna said Simmons had similar traits to Socceroos and former Central Coast midfielder Mustafa Amini.

“When I signed Mustafa at the Mariners from the AIS, he just went to another level,” McKinna said. “Jack can create or be used as a holding midfielder. He is very comfortable on the ball, has good vision … he is a promising young player.”

Simmons is one of five youth team players alongside Angus Thurgate, Pat Langlois, Jackson Frendo and Kieron Hayes in the Jets squad, which is without several senior players.

The Jets, on Sunday, made it two-from-two in China thanks to a nail-biting 3-1 win on penalties over Changchun Yatai after the scores were locked at 1-all.

Glen Moss, a second-half replacement for Jack Duncan, saved three penalty attempts, including one from former Sydney midfielder and Johnny Warren medalist Adrian Mierzejewski, who signed with the Chinese club on Sunday. 

Jason Hoffman, Johnny Koutroumbis and Ben Kantarovski converted from the spot for the Jets.

Changchun Yatai took the lead in the first half.

Matthew Ridenton replied almost instantly with his first goal for the Jets.

Tempers nearly boiled over on full-time after a rash challenge by a Changchun player on Hoffman.

On returning from China, Simmons will go into camp with the Australian Joeys (under-17s).

Coach Ernie Merrick will stay in China and will be joined on Wednesday by McKinna for a meeting with owner Martin Lee and to assess potential development players at sister club Shenzhen Ledman.

“We’ll watch Shenzhen Ledman train and play and will see if there is anyone worth bringing out,” McKinna said. 

The Jets only have one visa place available, after the recruitment of Kiwi Matthew Ridenton.

“We don’t have to sign a Chinese player for the A-League,” McKinna said. “We might just bring them out for a few months to train in a better environment with better players, and hopefully they get better.”

McKinna confirmed that Dimi Petratos, who is on a break after his commitments with the Socceroos at the World Cup, will be in the Jets squad for the trip to Spain on July 24.