Buhagiar brace helps Jets soar in A-Leagues first for Newcastle against Western

Check out the highlights from the thrilling fixture between Newcastle Jets and Western United in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Newcastle Jets ensured they will usher in the New Year with a victory after returning to winning ways thanks to Trent Buhagiar and a 2-0 triumph over lowly Western United.

Buhagiar was the star of the show with two goals in the space of 13 minutes as the 10-man Jets snapped a two-match drought in the Isuzu UTE A-League on Saturday.

A ninth-minute header and a stunning solo goal in the 22nd minute guided Newcastle to their third win of the season, while it was the first time the Jets had scored more than one goal in a game against Western

Apostolos Stamatelopoulos was sent off for a second bookable offence approaching the hour but Robert Stanton’s eighth-placed Jets still saw out the victory at home to bottom side Western, who slumped to an eighth loss through 10 rounds.

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There were ominous signs early as the Jets wreaked havoc in attack and they nearly broke the deadlock inside four minutes when a teasing ball into the box somehow evaded everyone, including Stamatelopoulos.

Newcastle did get their goal five minutes later via Buhagiar after Dane Ingham’s inch-perfect cross picked out the Jets forward for an easy close-range header.

Western were living dangerously as Newcastle had numerous opportunities to double the lead – Tom Heward-Belle thwarted both Stamatelopoulos and Buhagiar in a one-v-one situation.

The visitors nearly equalised in the 21st minute, however, Noah Botic could not get on the end of a delightful first-time cross from Lachlan Wales.

At the other end, Buhagiar doubled the Jets’ advantage following a trademark counter-attack just a minute later.

Western were left exposed after a corner as Buhagiar won the ball well inside his own half and sprinted forward before tucking the ball into the back of the net.

Clayton Taylor’s cross-cum-shot almost caught out Heward-Belle but the Wester goalkeeper made a superb finger-tip save to push the volley onto the crossbar approaching the half-hour mark.

Western did put the ball into the back of the net in the 33rd minute, however, Botic was ruled offside and things went from bad to worse prior to half-time after Riku Danzaki was forced from the field in agony having injured his shoulder.

Heward-Belle almost gifted Newcastle a third goal when he emerged out of his penalty area to head a ball away six minutes into the second half. Lucas Mauragis tried to catch the Western keeper off his line and the attempted shot fell to Stamatelopoulos, who couldn’t beat Heward-Belle from close ranger.

Ryan Scott was called into action to keep out Daniel Penha’s 55th-minute free-kick before the Jets were reduced to 10 men when Stamatelopoulos was sent off for a second yellow card after bringing down Kane Vidmar three minutes later.

Western came within a whisker of getting themselves back in the contest seven minutes from the end, but substitute Michael Ruhs hit the woodwork.

The Talking Point

There had been one thing the Jets had been craving this season – a home win.

For all the promising signs from the youthful Jets under Stanton in 2023-24, including a win over high-flying Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand, they had not celebrated a victory in front of their fans in the Hunter region.

That changed on Saturday.

It was just Newcastle’s second win in their last eight league matches on home soil.

“It’s massive. You want to win all your games at home and make your home a fortress,” Buhagiar told Paramount+.

“We’ve been building towards that. We’ve had a few games and unable to come out with a win. But we done well today.”

The Star

Who else but two-goal hero Trent Buhagiar?

Always a threat with his pace, Buhagiar showed what he is capable of with a devastating opening half.

He took his season tally to three goals in 10 matches, with three goals in his past three matches. He is just two goals shy of matching a career high in the A-Leagues.

“It’s a good feeling but happy to get a result after going down to 10 men,” Buhagiar said.

“I thought we defended the game out really well. Credit to the boys at the back and the team for putting in the shift for the full 90 minutes.”

He added: “Just happy to get the two (goals) and end the year on a high.”

What it means

The Jets take a win and a maiden home victory into 2024. It is a huge confidence boost.

Newcastle are now just two points outside of the top six as ahead of a Round 11 trip to Macarthur FC on January 5.

As for Western, they are rooted to the bottom of the standings with six points from 10 matches.

Next up for Western is a showdown with three-time reigning premiers Melbourne City on January 7.

“We lost the game in the first 20 minutes. We gave them the game really,” Western head coach John Aloisi told Paramount+.

“This is what happens when you have young players. We have a very young group and then when your senior players are out in tough times in terms of results, it’s a learning experience for a lot of these young boys.”

Aloisi added: “Not to be scared. What are we scared about? The first 20 minutes we give them the game because we’re scared. We’re scared to defend how we know how to defend.

“We’re scared to play the way we know how to play. I can handle losing but I don’t want players to be fearful and hiding. At the end of the day, we have a few issues at the moment which we have to work through but at least give everything.

“After that (half-time), they did but it was too late.”