Persija Jakarta’s brave ACL bid ended by Newcastle Jets

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Persija Jakarta’s bid to qualify for AFC Champions League 2019 came to an end on Tuesday as they were beaten 3-1 by Newcastle Jets in the second preliminary round of qualifiers.

Following a goalless first half at the Newcastle International Sports Centre, Ronald Vargas handed the Australian hosts a 49th-minute lead with a close-range finish but Ramdani Lestaluhu headed home a corner with 18 minutes remaining to force extra-time.

However, it was not to be for the Indonesian hopefuls as their valiant attempt to reach Asia’s premier club competition was halted when Nigel Boogard and Matthew Ridenton netted in either half of the additional 30 minutes to win it for the Jets.

With the victory, Newcastle are now one match away from qualifying for the group stage for only the second time in their history but have it all to do in a week’s time when they take on reigning champions Kashima Antlers in the playoff round.

Beto Goncalves tries to get Persija on the front foot early on.

As expected, it was the Jets who enjoyed the dominant share of possession from the opening whistle and had their first chance in the 13th minute when Kaine Sheppard was slipped in by Vargas’ neat pass, but opposition goalkeeper Andritany Ardhiyasa stood tall to deny him one-on-one.

Newcastle continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides throughout the opening 45 and Dimitri Petratos would have had a clean shooting opportunity in the 32nd minute if not for a poor first touch, before Roy O’Donovan somehow failed to hit the back of the net from a couple of yards out after being picked out by Daniel Georgievski’s left-wing delivery.

To their credit, Persija did display attacking intent of their own when they did get hold of the ball, with Riko Simanjuntak proving to be an absolute livewire down the right.

The Jets celebrate Vargas’ opening goal.

Nonetheless, the deadlock was finally broken four minutes after the restart after Petratos and Sheppard linked up well to release Roy O’Donovan, who advanced down the right and squared a neat ball across the face of goal for the unmarked Vargas to slot home.

But, having finally taken the lead, the Jets seemed to take their foot off the pedal instead of pushing on in search of the killer second goal and – as Persija gradually grew into the contest – it was perhaps no surprise that they duly equalised in the 72nd minute.

Lestaluhu’s precise header gave the visitors renewed hope.

Just moments after Ben Kantarovski had to block a goal-bound header from Marko Simic, Newcastle were again slack with their marking and Lestaluhu was left completely unmarked to meet a Simanjuntak corner with a well-guided header that had just enough on it to cross the line despite Daniel Georgievski’s attempt to clear off the line.

With neither side able to find the winner in the remainder of the 90 minutes, the game then went into extra-time and – considering what was at stake – it was refreshing to see both teams still going all out in search of a winner instead of adopting a conservative approach.

In the end, it was the Jets who prevailed when Boogard popped up with a real captain’s goal to put them back in front as the clock ticked over the 100-minute mark.

Despite struggling with his set-piece deliveries for much of the evening, Petratos got it right when it mattered most as his pinpoint corner was flicked on by Ben Kantarovski towards the back post, where Boogard was waiting to dispatch a clinical left-footed finish past Andritany into the far corner.

And, in the 120th minute, Ridenton added a third for good measure as he was picked out by fellow substitute Nick Cowburn’s left-wing freekick and planted a firm header into the back of the net to seal his side’s progress and break Persija hearts in the process.

NEWCASTLE JETS: Glen Moss, John Koutroumbis, Nigel Boogard, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Daniel Georgievski, Steven Ugarkovic, Ben Kantarovski, Dimitri Petratos (Nick Cowburn 106’), Ronald Vargas (Matthew Ridenton 80’), Kaine Sheppard (Angus Thurgate 82’), Roy O’Donovan (Lachlan Jackson 113’).

PERSIJA JAKARTA: Andritany Ardhiyasa, Ismed Sofyan, Ryuji Utomo, Maman Abdurrahman, Dany Saputra, Sandi Sute (Septinus Alua 100’), Ramdani Lestaluhu, Yan Pieter Nasadit (Tony Sucipto 40’), Riko Simanjuntak, Beto Goncalves (Novri Setiawan 70’), Marko Simic.