EXTREME conditions combined with the absence of captain Keiran Hayes took its toll as the Newcastle Jets bombed out of contention for the Weifang Cup with a 5-2 loss to hosts Shandong Leung on Wednesday.
The defeat followed a 2-1 loss to Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors on Monday and left the Jets in third place. The three pool winners and the next best (most likely Shandong) progress to the finals.
The Jets will be in a middle group of teams battling for places fifth to eighth.
Playing their third game in four days in temperatures in the high 30s, the Jets were without Hayes who was taken to hospital with heat exhaustion at half-time against Boca Juniors.
They lacked his leadership and organisation at the back as the homes side exploded with three goals in the opening 20 minutes.
Striker Maki Petratos pulled a goal back for the Jets with a spectacular freekick. Shandong added another, before Petratos completed a double for 4-2 at half-time.
“The first 10-15 minutes was not what we wanted,” Jets coach Labinot Haliti said. “The second goal was an own-goal and that set us back a fair bit. After 20 minutes we started getting into our game. Maki scored a great goal, maybe even goal of the tournament, from a free kick and and then we doubled it up pretty much straight after. That gave the boys some belief.”
The Jets created numerous chances after the break but failed to convert. Shandong iced the win in injury time.
Jackson Frendo, Jack Simmons, Josh Cairelli and Ryan Goodhew were strong.
“Second half we came out and pretty much dominated for 35 minutes,” Haliti said. “We created enough chances to score goals but just couldn’t finish, and then we got punished on a turnover in the final minute of the second half. Going down so early in a game, and bear in mind this is the third game in four days in extremely hot conditions, it was always going to be difficult, especially playing the hosts who have one of the best football schools in China. But the boys still showed character and fought to the end.”