Stamatelopoulos steals show in Penha’s reunion as Jets celebrate first win of Stanton era

Newcastle Jets emerged triumphant over Western United in Round 4 of the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Apostolos Stamatelopoulos came back to haunt his former club as he maintained his red-hot form as Newcastle Jets celebrated their first win of the season with a 1-0 victory over Western United on Saturday.

Stamatelopoulos made 12 appearances for Western in 2019-10 and his strike one minute before half-time was the difference away at Mars Stadium in Ballarat, where the Jets won for the first time under head coach Rob Stanton.

Western substitute Nikita Rukavytsya thought he equalised in the 86th minute, but it was ruled offside as John Aloisi’s side slipped to a third consecutive defeat, having stunned three-time reigning premiers Melbourne City in Round 1.

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All eyes were on Daniel Penha pre-game as the Brazilian star reunited with Newcastle Jets for the first time since leaving the A-Leagues at the end of 2021-22. He endeared himself to the Hunter region with four goals and 11 assists.

And there was a beautiful moment pre-game when Penha went out of his way to shake hands with the entire Jets bench.

On the field, Penha was at the heart of Western’s play as they controlled proceedings throughout the opening 45 minutes.

Newcastle were pegged back and the woodwork came to their rescue when Penha smashed a ferocious shot against the crossbar in the 10th minute. The attempt was so powerful the woodwork rattling could be heard after the playmaker’s wicked effort – from the edge of the area – left Ryan Scott helpless.

Newcastle’s forwards were starved of any service as Western controlled the play through the middle, while Penha was the focal point of the home side’s attack as he again went close to breaking the deadlock, though his volley deflected behind for a corner in the 18th minute.

There was a good chance for the Jets in a rare foray forward six minutes later – Lachie Bayliss let rip from outside of the box and he almost curled a shot into the bottom corner of the net but it flashed just wide.

A deflection came to Newcastle’s rescue in the 36th minute. After winning the ball in the middle of the pitch, Western broke forward and carved open the Jets as Tomoki Imai played a ball to Riku Danzaki who laid it to Noah Botic. However, Mark Natta got a toe on the ball that helped deflect it away for a corner.

Penha did put the ball in the back of the net, though it was chalked off following a VAR review as the ball had gone out of play in the build-up, with Jets playing stopping in the belief it had clearly gone out of bounds.

Western were then caught with a Jets sucker-punch in the 44th minute. Trent Buhagiar rose highest and his header hit the crossbar. However, Stamatelopoulos was on hand to turn home the rebound on the stroke of half-time.

The Jets nearly doubled their lead after Clayton Taylor surged through on goal in a one-on-one situation, though Tom Heward-Belle stood up tall to deny the Jets midfielder.

Western veteran Imai tried his luck from distance in the 65th minute and he lashed a volley agonisingly wide of the post in what would have been only his second goal in the league.

The Jets felt they deserved a penalty after Taylor went down in the area under a challenge from Josh Risdon. After being encouraged by VAR to view the pitch-side monitor, it was deemed a foul had been committed by Newcastle in the build-up.

Western had another goal ruled out with four minutes remaining when Rukavytsya was ruled offside after his long-range effort looped over Scott.

The Talking Point

Western United had not lost against Newcastle Jets in their past six league meetings (W4, D2) since losing back in August 2020. But they entered the match on the back of consecutive defeats.

Their unbeaten streak against the Jets came to an end as their slumping 2023-24 form continued. They have now lost three straight games without scoring a goal.

Newcastle also bucked a trend, having not won any of their last six league games away from home, including two in Victoria. However, the Jets ended their drought in a confidence-boosting triumph.

The Star

Can anyone stop Stamatelopoulos?

He has now scored four goals in as many games after breaking the deadlock on the stroke of half-time.

It is the 24-year-old’s best return since scoring six goals for Rodos in Greece’s second division. Meanwhile, it is his best A-Leagues season ever, having never scored more than three in a season.

What they said

Hear from Western United coach John Aloisi and Newcastle Jets boss Robbie Stanton as they dissected the action from Mars Stadium.

What it means

The Jets have five points from four games as they turn their attention to Round 5, when they host rivals Central Coast Mariners in the F3 Derby on November 25 following the international break.

It is back to the drawing board for Western, who have not won since their opening-round triumph. Next up for them is a showdown against Adelaide United on November 26.