The Newcastle Jets 2-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday was, remarkably, just their second win in what has been a dreadful, unforgiving season. In an uninspiring battle of the bottom-placed sides, somewhat undermined by the fact Tony Popovic elected to name essentially his youth side (the fourth youngest starting team in A-League history), the Jets were able to capitalise on their obvious superiority down the left.
There were two major reasons for this – first, there was Andrew Hoole’s superiority over his direct opponent, Daniel Alessi, in 1v1 situations, and secondly, there was Newcastle’s ability to create 2v1 overloads down this flank.
Right from the kick-off, Newcastle’s emphasis on playing down the left, intentional or not, was obvious. Ben Kennedy, receiving the ball after a pass was played back off the kick-off, simply launched it forward towards Hoole.
There’s nothing particularly sophisticated about the move – Kennedy’s kick has an unfortunate bounce, catching Alessi out with Hoole racing in behind him to drive into the space in behind. The winger dragged his shot wide, but it’s a telling sign of what is to come.
For example, in the 32nd minute, a Jets defender clears a hopeful long ball, with Alessi again caught out underneath a difficult bounce. This gives Hoole the opportunity to sprint onto the loose ball, and his resulting cross falls to Edson Montano. The striker scores, but the goal is inexplicably ruled out for offside – the most farcical refereeing mistake of the season, but still a good indicator of how Newcastle’s best chances were coming down that side.
Newcastle weren’t always hoofing the ball forward – there appeared to be a genuine ambition to attack down their left hand side. Taylor Regan often looked to hit long, forward passes into attack from his centre-back position, with one such ball leading to one of their most promising attacks.
A key contributor in that move is left-back Lee Ki-Je, who bursts forward from a deep position to create a 2v1 overload with Hoole against Alessi. Although Ki-Je doesn’t receive the ball, his movement is crucial because it creates a moment of indecision for Alessi – suddenly, the right-back has to account for both trying to shut down Hoole in the 1v1, but also preventing a pass to Ki-Je that would allow the left-back to be free on the ball in a dangerous position.
Another example of the simple but effective concept of Newcastle’s overloads down the left can be seen in the video below.
The best example, though, comes after Alessi was substituted for Antony Golec (not the first time the youngster has been substituted before half-time this season), with Sam Gallaway moving across to right-back. As the goal demonstrates, however, while Alessi was struggling enormously with Hoole in 1v1s, it was going to be difficult for any defender to stop Newcastle’s 2v1 overloads.
Lee Ki-Je’s smashing goal proved to be decisive, after Western Sydney mounted a comeback in the second half led by substitute Takahagi, who upped the tempo in midfield and fed clever forward passes into the Wanderers attackers.
Newcastle held on, though, with that combination down their left the crucial factor behind a rare win.