ADELAIDE UNITED spoilt Emile Heskey's A-League debut as they defied a brutal travel schedule to open their season with a 2-0 upset of Newcastle at Hunter Stadium yesterday.
Goals to Dario Vidosic and Iain Ramsay secured the win in front of 14,868 fans, in a remarkable performance less than four days after their extra-time quarter-final Asian Champions League loss to Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan.
''It's been a long week,'' said Reds coach John Kosmina, whose side spent 33 hours making the 11,000-kilometre journey from Tashkent to Newcastle. ''There were moments during the game that showed we were fatigued.
''But for the guys to get through what we did on Wednesday night … [playing] 120 minutes for most of them … and all the travel we had, with two nights sleeping on a plane, it's been a fantastic effort.''
Heskey arrived in Australia just 10 days ago but started the match and put in a 70-minute shift, despite Jets coach Gary van Egmond's initial plans to ease him into action with half a game. The 34-year-old showed glimpses of his class but looked sluggish at times and is sure to benefit from the run.
''I thought his contribution was great,'' van Egmond said. ''He's a real target man up front and you see a number of times where people can look to play the ball in and look to run off him. We need to get better at that.
''He's wanting to stay out there for 95 minutes but we have to be a little bit careful with him. I was looking at [giving him] half a game to be honest, but he's got such a will to play and to get out there and to try and contribute.''
The Jets enjoyed the better of possession for much of the first half but lacked cohesion in the final third. Heskey's only scoring chance came just after half-time but he produced a lethargic effort to barely get a header on Scott Neville's cross.
Meanwhile in Perth, the Glory beat Brisbane Roar 1-0 yesterday at Patersons Stadium.