A BELTER from loan danger Michael Bridges continued Sydney FC’s dream start under John Kosmina with a 1-0 win against the Jets.
The 29-year-old’s first goal for the Moore Park outfit was a strike of sublime quality as Sydney ended Newcastle’s unbeaten home record in commendable fashion.
Gary Van Egmond’s men would have topped the table for the first time had they managed to earn a win but their performance lacked spark and imagination as Sydney recorded their second win over the Jets this season.
Mario Jardel came agonisingly close to rescuing a late point but it was new boy Bridges who was beaming at the final whistle.
Speaking after the game he said: “Fantastic. I was in the right place at the right time, the ball fell to me on my weaker left foot and I’ve found the top corner.
"I knew it was going in and I was away to those those supporters who’ve been absolutely magnificent. I’m absolutely loving it, a great win for the boys.
"We’ve a great set of lads here who’ve made me feel really welcome and we’re going to celebrate big-style.”
The only minus for the visitors was further injury woes for Juninho with his shoulder problem forcing him out of the action at half-time after an accidental collision with referee Matthew Breeze.
Defeat for the Jets was painful and the sight of Ufuk Talay being pelted with cans and bottles as he prepared to take a corner was an unsavoury spectacle.
Rival skipper Jade North, playing his 50th A-League game, said: “You’re disappointed any time you lose. It’s one shot, one goal.
"Full credit to Sydney they came at us. We have to put the ball away in the last third.”
Van Egmond was forced into one change with Stuart Musialik having had an appendix operation in the week and Troy Hearfield coming in to lead the attack.
As for the visitors, John Kosmina handed Mark Rudan an instant return following a one-match ban with Ruben Zadkovich the man to drop out.
Michael Bridges, a Newcastle native of the English variety, looked to build on his attacking partnership with the A-League’s leading scorer Alex Brosque.
The Jets created the first opening of the match on five minutes. Joel Griffiths threaded a wonderful ball through the Sydney FC defence to Mark Bridge.
The Olyroo striker cut inside Rudan and Tony Popovic before slashing an effort wide of the left post.
Two minutes later Denni tried his luck with a long range free-kick but his tame effort dribbled feebly wide of the left post.
Another charge down the right by Griffiths teed up Noel Spencer for a 30 metre strike shortly afterwards but again his effort was off target.
Bridges forced a corner to earn Sydney their first set piece but Juninho’s delivery was not sufficient to trouble the home defence.
Rudan gave the ball away on halfway on 19 and as Hearfield streaked away Popovic kept pace impressively and did enough to deflect the youngster’s shot behind for a corner.
Sydney pushed forward in response and Ante Covic got down smartly to his left to push away a shot from Bridges. The Jets keeper was unable to hold on to the ball but no Sydney player had anticipated the loose ball.
Mark Milligan became the first player to be booked on 22 when he was cautioned by Matthew Breeze for a foul on Tarek Elrich, the Sydney man having earlier been lucky to escape a card for kicking the ball away.
Milligan unleashed a rocket from 25 metres just a minute later but although his shot had the power it screamed over Covic’s crossbar.
Denni went into the book on 25 with the referee claiming the Brazilian had dived in a challenge with Sydney defender Iain Fyfe. The Jets man looked astonished as there did appear to be slight contact.
Adam Griffiths followed Denni into the book moments later for a crunching challenge on Robbie Middleby, his fourth card of the season triggering a one-match ban.
Brosque tried his luck with a low left foot drive from the edge of the area on 29 but Covic was equal to the task, clutching on to the ball as Bridges waited to pounce on any slip from the keeper.
Back came the Jets and Joel Griffiths thumped a shot wide of the right post following a poor clearance from Bridges.
Bridges then looped a header into Covic’s arms after good work down the left by Middleby, the former Leeds United man gradually becoming a more influential figure for the visitors.
Ufuk Talay had a crack from way out on 37 but again Covic was in the perfect place to make the ball stick.
A great turn from Elrich teed up Denni, only for a deflection off Middleby to prevent Clint Bolton having to make a save.
Brosque took advantage of a deflected Bridges shot on the edge of the box but crashed his shot high and wide under pressure from Andrew Durante as the interval approached.
The Jets were forced into a change on 43 with Denni suffering an ankle injury after a challenge with Middleby. It handed striker Scott Tunbridge his first outing in a Jets jersey since his off season arrival from Scottish side Hamilton Academical.
The Jets ended the half strongly and in the final minute a strike deflected past Bolton but somehow spun beyond the left post just as it looked to be destined for the bottom left hand corner.
The referee’s whistle brought proceedings to a halt with the teams trooping off with the scoresheet still blank.
Sydney suffered a blow at the start of the second half with Juninho failing to reappear due to his shoulder problem. Kosmina responded by introducing Zadkovich for the little Brazilian.
Zadkovich had been on the field less than two minutes before he was booked for a late challenge on Hearfield, the fourth caution of the night.
Fyfe blazed high and wide on 50 minutes after some good work by Bridges while Elrich wriggled through a gap in the Sydney defence before dragging a shot wide of the left post from the edge of the box.
Bridges was a whisker away from connecting with a spectacular effort on 54 while Adam Griffiths got his head to a cross from brother Joel, only for the ball to drift well wide of the right post.
Durante made a superbly-timed tackle on the edge of the area to halt Popovic’s charge forward while Tunbridge got his head to Adam Griffiths’ cross from the right but could only head straight at Bolton.
Rudan was fortunate to get away with a petulant kick at Tunbridge as the players hauled themselves up following the header. Talay was then spoken to strongly by the referee for a foul on Joel Griffiths.
Still, neither side was able to produce the one moment of quality to really ignite the derby. Bridges tried an ambitious shot on 65 but his shot curled wide of the left post as 16,433 fans tried to roar the players on to renewed efforts.
The deadlock was broken on 69 with Bridges producing a moment of sheer quality as he pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the area to curl a terrific strike into the top left hand corner of the net.
The Sydney new boy was off celebrating before the ball had whistled past Covic and Kosmina’s men were on course for a second successive win.
The Jets responded with a double change on 72 with Paul Kohler replacing Spencer and Mario Jardel coming on for Hearfield.
Sydney began stroking the ball around with confidence as the visitors continued to enjoy the bulk of the possession and the territorial supremacy. Breeze waved away a penalty shout from the Jets as a cross struck the arm of Popovic.
Jardel went desperately close to levelling matters 10 minutes from time, Bolton pushing away his first header and then Middleby hacking his follow up shot off the line.
A furious Covic was booked for protesting after the referee missed an obvious handball from Fyfe and then from the resulting corner Talay was pelted with bottles and cans as he prepared to deliver the set piece.
Suddenly tempers began to fray with Rudan unhappy after being caught by Tunbridge while Bridges followed his first goal in Australia with his first booking.
D’Apuzzo’s 88th minute strike clipped Fyfe before deflecting off the left post but not for the first time on the night the Jets’ delivery was simply not up to scratch.
The Jets pushed forward in desperation but in truth their performance over the first 89 minutes had really lacked the necessary urgency and composure.
Three extra minutes were added on but it wasn’t enough for the Jets to unlock the Sydney defence and prevent their first home defeat of the campaign.
It has tightened things up in the table with Kosmina’s men right back in the frame after this latest triumph. Amazingly, they are now just one win off top spot depending on the outcome of the Central Coast Mariners' match against Melbourne Victory.
A wonderful goal from Sydney new boy Michael Bridges which oozed quality in a derby which never quite lived up to the pre-match hype. The Jets seemed strangely lethargic at times and never generated the sort of momentum that was needed to break down a stubborn Sydney team. Kossie's arrival has clearly lifted Sydney who must now be eyeing a serious charge towards the top. As for the Jets, they face a big test as to how they respond to this setback.
Sydney star Ninkovic re-signs with champions
Victory didn't deserve 'gut-wrenching' loss - Muscat
Sydney FC hero Vukovic: I couldn't lose another Grand Final
Wagner's quest to keep Mooy
30 May 2017
GA Express #243: Golf's One Hit Wonders
30 May 2017
Ange's Hrustic dilemma
30 May 2017