NEWCASTLE Jets will return to Australia on Tuesday with more than just a trophy and $130,000 in prizemoney after their success at the Super Champions Cup in China.
The three-day tournament, where they beat Shanghai Shenhua (2-0) and Changchun Yatai (3-1 on penalties), gave the squad a taste of what they are likely to encounter if they qualify for the 2019 Asian Champions League.
The Jets face a home-and-away play-off, most likely against a Thai or Malaysian club, in February for a spot in the group stage.
The Super Champions Cup not only gave them a first-hand look at the quality of opposition in Asia but also the conditions they will play in.
“It was a great experience for the boys of what it is going to be like if we get through to the group stage of the ACL,” Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna said. “The conditions were sweltering, and to play two games in three days was a big ask. Changchun dominated possession but we dug out a result. That is what playing in the ACL is about. You are going to a foreign country where you won’t be able to play pretty, but still need a result.”
Veteran keeper Glen Moss was the hero in the win over Changchun, making three saves in a penalty shoot-out after the scores were locked at 1-all at fulltime.
Moss stood his ground to claim a “Panenka” by former Sydney midfielder and Johnny Warren medalist Adrian Mierzejewski, who signed with the Chinese club on Sunday. The former Kiwi international then made two diving efforts.
Jason Hoffman, Johnny Koutroumbis and Ben Kantarovski converted from the spot for the Jets.
Moss had replaced Jack Duncan, who played 60 minutes in his first appearance since tearing a quadriceps in the A-League preliminary final against Melbourne City.
“Glen Moss was our player of the tournament,” McKinna said. “To save three penalties is outstanding. That is the benefit of having two number one keepers. Mossy is getting towards the end of his career, but he loves being in Newcastle and loves pushing Jack. They complement each other really well.”
Kiwi recruit Matthew Ridenton had scored the Jets’ equaliser in the 25th minute after a searching cross from trialist James Virgili.
“Due to the short back up and extreme conditions, our attack wasn’t great on Sunday night but defensively the boys at the back did really well,” McKinna said. “It got a bit heated in the final five minutes. There were a few players rolling around like Neymar and they got a bit feisty. It wasn’t just a friendly.”
Sydney went down to Shanghai Shenhua on Sunday, handing the Jets the tournament.
“It was our first tournament over there and to come away with a trophy was very pleasing,” McKinna said. “[Owner] Martin Lee was over the moon.”
The Jets squad included youth players Angus Thurgate, Keiron Hayes, Pat Langlois, Jackson Frendo and Jack Simmons.
Simmons, 16, scored the match sealer against Shanghai off the bench in his senior debut.
“Ernie said all the young ones did really well,” McKinna said. “Gus played up front on Sunday and worked his backside.”