NEWCASTLE JETS 2 MELBOURNE VICTORY 1
Adama Traore (left) of the Victory and Nathan Burns (R) of the Jets fight for the ball. Photo: Getty Images
In all the discussion about World Cup possibilities plenty have talked up Melbourne Victory forward James Troisi as a potential Socceroos squad member; fewer have mentioned Newcastle's Nathan Burns or Victory's Mitch Nichols as candidates to crash the Brazil party.
Troisi did his cause no harm by notching the 50th-minute equaliser that brought Victory back into this game after Burns had given the visitors the lead just before the break, but it was the Newcastle forward who had the last laugh, netting the second in the 66th minute to give Newcastle a 2-1 win that not many pundits predicted.
In bagging his brace Burns sparked memories of the time, seven years ago, when he burst on to the scene as an exciting 18-year-old with Adelaide United.
Nathan Burns of the Jets scores one of his goals against Melbourne Victory. Photo: Getty Images
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Troisi (50min)||Goals||Burns (44min, 70min)|
Back then it was widely thought it was only a matter of time before he would become a key player for the national team.
But his move to Greece, where he spent several years on the books of AEK Athens, didn't yield the dividends he and the Australian soccer public had hoped, and he dropped out of the international reckoning.
Whether his decision to return to the A-League and play for Newcastle this season will rekindle that representative career remains to be seen, but he certainly reminded Victory and the 18,113 strong crowd of what he could do on Sunday evening.
While Troisi is a high-profile player - not the least due to the fluorescent hue of his pinkish coloured boots - Nichols and Burns are more understated.
Still, both knew that this game, between two sides pushing to stay in touch with the A-League pacesetters, would be a good stage to showcase their attributes and promote their cases as potential Brazil bolters.
Nichols, an important creative figure in Victory's midfield, was the busier and more involved early, almost setting up a first-minute opening for Mark Milligan with a lofted pass that forced Jets goalkeeper Mark Birighitti to come smartly off his line - and clatter Milligan to the ground in the process.
Shortly after Nichols linked well with Kosta Barbarouses and he looked, in the opening exchanges, as if he could become the game's significant figure.
That he didn't was due to the way the Jets closed him down and stifled the midfield in that first half, pressing Victory as they came out of defence to deny them the time and space to play their way into threatening positions.
Occasionally the hosts got through in a first half in which both sides punched and counterpunched: Barbarouses drove straight at Birighitti while Rashid Mahazi had the chance to shoot but opted to cross the ball instead, to no avail.
Victory's best chance in the first 45 minutes was as a result of some individual flair from Barbarouses, whose drifting run brought him past two defenders before he fed the ball to Conor Pain, who was into the starting line up in place of Archie Thompson, who sustained a hamstring injury in training on Saturday.
Pain is another youngster who has won high praise in his short career but he still sometimes lacks composure in front of goal, and this was one of those occasions. His shot from the left was high and wide and Birighitti did not even have to make a save.
A couple of minutes earlier Burns and his strike partner Adam Taggart had served notice of the threat they could pose when the former made space for himself for a run down the left to fire in a shot which Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe had to come out to thwart Taggart from reaching.
Jets coach Gary Van Egmond was forced into a reshuffle midway through the half as full-back Scott Neville sustained a knee injury which saw him replaced by Jacob Pepper.
Victory defender Adama Traore tried his luck from some 35 metres with a full-blooded drive that brought a spectacular save from Birighitti. But when the goal came it was at the other end, courtesy of Burns, who, while starting wide on the left, was regularly dropping into more central positions.
Shortly before the interval he advanced towards the Victory goal, played a one-two with Taggart and calmly steered past Coe.
Troisi's leveller five minutes after the restart came after a nice passing move begun by Traore, who fed Barbarouses before Pain pushed the ball wide to Troisi, who fired past Birighitti from inside the area.
The Jets might have been expected to retreat inside their shell at this point to hang on for a point, but Van Egmond's side had other ideas.
Skipper Ruben Zadkovich's long-range free kick tested Coe, and with 24 minutes remaining the Jets got their noses in front once more courtesy of Burns.
A cross from the right by Jets substitute James Brown was not dealt with by the Victory defence and when the ball fell to the unmarked Burns he kept cool and finished with precision.
Nichols went close to equalising in the 73rd minute only to be denied by Birighitti's fingertips and then he set Troisi up for a cheeky chip which cleared the Jets keeper but also went over the bar.
NEWCASTLE JETS 2 (Nathan Burns 44m, 67m) bt MELBOURNE VICTORY 1 (James Troisi 50m) at AAMI Park. Crowd: 18,113. Referee: Alan Milliner.
The win takes the Jets up to third place, with 15 points, while Victory, on 12, sit in sixth.
Ladder after Round 9
|Western Sydney Wanderers||9||4||4||1||10||7||3||16|
|Central Coast Mariners||8||3||4||1||9||7||2||13|