Newcastle Jets became the first team through to the Hyundai A-League 2018 Grand Final, following their 2-1 victory over Melbourne City Friday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Riley McGree’s stunning scorpion kick in front of 19000 fans helped propel the side to their first grand final in 10 years.
City had opened the scoring in the 15th minute through Bruno Fornaroli who bundled in an effort that ricocheted off Nikolai Topor-Stanley, before dribbling over the line. City then held the lead until the 57th minute.
McGree looked for the one-two with Ronny Vargas but, with the return ball slightly behind him, the 19-year-old opted for a quick-thinking scorpion kick from the edge of the area, the ball looping over an unsuspecting Dean Bouzanis.
With 15 minutes remaining Jason Hoffman capitalised on Osama Malik’s poor first touch to fire home a first-time finish with his left foot, to give the Jets the result they needed.
Jets coach Ernie Merrick told the media post match that he was not surprised by his sides rise from wooden spooners to championship contenders.
“I expected we would have a good run this year. I didn’t expect to get in the Grand Final,” he said.
“I thought we would make big steps forward from where they’ve been in the past few years.
“Because we had the right players, the right team, the right coaches and the right fitness staff, I had a good feeling right from the start.
“To be in the Grand Final is a real bonus. Now we’re in with a real chance of doing something.”
Meanwhile City boss Warren Joyce felt his side struggled to manage the big moments, which some would say has been a recurring theme throughout City’s campaign.
“If you look at some of the bigger games we’ve played they’re the things that have hurt us,” he said.
“Throughout the season we’ve had instances like that we’ve got to be better at.
“It’s part of growing as a player, and being in these situations [is how you learn to] deal with them.
“It’s different in a normal league game than a Semi Final with 20,000 people here.”