Newcastle moved to the brink of progression in the Asian Champions League with a spectacular, come-from-behind 2-1 win over an under-strength Beijing Guoan.
The Jets looked to be heading out of the competition after Beijing\’s Australian striker Ryan Griffiths, a former Newcastle NSL player, scored against the run of play in the 69th minute at Energy Australia Stadium.
But the Jets produced an amazing late show with veteran striker Sasho Petrovski equalising in the 88th minute and unknown 20-year-old substitute Sean Rooney hitting the winner four minutes into injury time to put the Jets on track to qualify for the knockout stages.
“There\’s good character in this team and they\’ve pretty much got a never-die attitude,” Jets coach Gary van Egmond.
“I didn\’t think it was over … to come back and to win the game is just a testament to the players\’ resolve.”
The Jets are now second in Group E and only need to draw their final group match against Ulsan Hyundai in South Korea to reach the last 16.
Even if they lose they could still progress if Beijing lose at home to the already-qualified Nagoya Grampus of Japan.
Newcastle will be without Adam Griffiths in Korea after he picked up a yellow card but they will welcome back suspended Ben Kantarovski.
“We\’ll go there with a lot of confidence taken out of a game like this and we\’re very much looking forward to it,” van Egmond said.
The Jets had dominated until Griffiths, the younger brother of Newcastle brothers Adam and Joel, turned the game.
He was released into space by substitute Yang Yun and got between Jets defenders Ljubo Milicevic and Tarek Elrich before calmly slotting the ball past Ben Kennedy.
But the Jets refused to give in and Petrovski pounced on a lovely Elrich cross to fire home from a tight angle.
Newcastle didn\’t take their foot off the pedal either, with Rooney – who was picked up by the Jets from Sydney FC\’s youth team for the ACL – collected a knock-on from Milicevic and fired in a stunning, curling shot from outside the box to send the small but vocal crowd into raptures.
Beijing had kicked off without six players that started in their 0-0 Chinese Super League draw with Shanghai Shenhua on Friday as they battled a heavy fixtures schedule between competitions.
Their Korean coach Lee Jang Soo admitted it had taken its toll.
“The result is disappointing but I\’m satisfied with the players, they gave their best,” he said.
“Because of the high intensity of games in the ACL and Chinese Super League our players are tired.”
The Jets now sit on seven points in Group E, four behind Nagoya, who secured progression by thrashing Ulsan 4-1 at home.