CAPTAIN Nigel Boogaard and substitute Matthew Ridenton scored in extra-time as the Newcastle Jets scraped home 3-1 against a plucky Persija Jakarta in a dramatic Asian Champions League qualifier at McDonald Jones Stadium on Tuesday night.
Boogaard broke the deadlock in the 101st minute with a strike at the back post before replacement Ridenton sealed the win in the 120th minute, much to the relief of the 6647 Jets faithful.
The Jets now face a trip to Japan and another sudden-death showdown with Asian champions Kashima Antlers next Tuesday.
The winner of that clash earns a spot in Group E of the 32-team tournament.
The Jets dominated for large periods and looked set to have the game in their keeping when Ronny Vargas tapped in at the back post in the 49th minute.
However, his goal was cancelled out against the run of play in the 72nd minute by Ramdani Lestaluhu from a set piece.
The clash was symptomatic of the Jets’ A-League campaign.
They created chance after chance but failed to capitalise.
In the end it took the skipper to save the day. The defender latched on to a flicked on header from Ben Kantarovski and slotted home at the back post.
The goal was his eighth in 250-career games and second in the ACL.
Jets coach Ernie Merriick was proud of the effort, given the recent hectic schedule and indicated he would be fielding a vastly different team against Melbourne City at home in the A-League on Friday night.
"It was a tough game," Merrick said. "Two very fatigued teams out there to go 120 minutes. I think we lasted longer but it was an important win and I keep bearing in mind that was our fifth game in three weeks, and we've won three, drawn one and lost one away to Perth, so the boys have done really well."
Marko Simic started at the point of the attack for the visitors despite appearing in a Sydney Court on Tuesday morning for allegedly indecently assaulting a female passenger on a flight from Bali to Australia for the game.
For the Jets Kantarovski came in for Ridenton in midfield and Kaine Sheppard was called up for an injured Jason Hoffman (ankle) in the only changes from the 1-all draw with Wellington in the A-League last Thursday.
Simic was greeted with a chorus of boos by the Newcastle crowd, had a poor first touch was well contained by Boogaard and Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
The home side dominated possession in a testing opening 20 minutes without posing too many problems for Persija keeper and skipper Andritany Ardhiyasa.
That changed on the half hour when Sheppard played Dimi Petratos into the box but his touch was heavy and allowed the keeper to clear.
Two minutes later, Roy O’Donovan missed another gilt-edge chance with an attempted diving header which struck his shoulder.
The chances kept piling up for the Jets but they either sailed wide or were saved by the keeper.
Persija’s best chances in a scoreless first half were engineered by pint-sized winger Riko Simanjuntak down the right.
The Jets finally broke the deadlock four minutes after the break.
Petratos switched play with a searching cross which Sheppard knocked into the path of Roy O’Donovan. The Irishman took a touch and picked out Vargas at the back post to tap in.
The Jets continue to push forward but couldn’t find a second.
Then, against the run of play, Persija equalised from a set piece. Ricko delivered a corner to an unmarked Lestaluhu who angled a header into the left corner. Daniel Georgievski tried to clear but could only knock the ball up into the crossbar and over the line.
The game threatened to erupt in the 89th minute when O’Donovan intercepted a long ball from a Jets teammate after the resumption of play following an injury to a Persija defender.