MARQUEE midfielder Ronny Vargas scored his first A-League goal as the Newcastle Jets fought out a spirited 1-all draw with Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.
Vargas, making his 11th appearance after missing much of last season with a broken ankle, was on hand to slot home a Jason Hoffman cross in the 52nd minute.
The Venezuelan’s strike was cancelled out 10 minutes later via a header from former Jet Craig Goodwin.
After a scoreless opening half, the game opened up.
Hoffman had a golden chance to snatch a winner in the 67th minute but couldn’t beat goalkeeper Paul Izzo with a header from point-bank range.
Substitute George Blackwood went close for Adelaide with a shot that fizzed past the right post.
The match threatened to erupt in injury time after a collision between Glen Moss and Blackwood.
Moss came out for a cross and collected the striker. Adelaide appealed for a penalty but referee Shaun Evans ruled that the keeper only had eyes for the ball. The VAR agreed with the match-official.
Blackwood badly injured his shoulder in the incident.
Adelaide coach Marco Kurz was furious at the decision by Evans.
Captain Nigel Boogaard and Nikolai Topor-Stanley were strong for the Jets in a clash dominated by defence.
Despite giving up the lead, Jets coach Ernie Merrick was satisfied with the draw.
“I was happy to come away with a point because this is a tough place to come and play,” Merrick said. “I was very pleased with the first 45 minutes. The pressure we applied gave us a few chances. We had twice as many chances [as them] in the first half. The second half evened itself out. Their goal was a good goal: a good cross and a good header. We could have got the winner with a cross from Jiar for Jason’s header. That’s the way it fell. It was an even game. Overall it was a good, quality game of football.”
The point from the draw was Newcastle’s first for the campaign.
After two away games, they return home for battles against defending champions Melbourne Victory next Saturday and premiers Sydney FC a week later.
Ernie Merrick went with the same XI that was unlucky to go down 2-1 to Wellington at Westpac Stadium in the opening round.
That meant Ben Kantarovski returned via the bench after missing round one on the comeback from a hamstring niggle.
Vargas threatened early for the Jets, firing a left-foot shot which took a deflection and skimmed over the bar.
But it was with their defence that the Jets applied early pressure.
The game was in need of a goal and it came in the 52nd minute after a mistake in possession from the home team.
Hoffman swooped, dribbled towards the byline and delivered a low cross for Vargas to tap in.
Ten minutes later the home side were on level terms.
Michael Marrone made a run from right back and curved a cross to Goodwin who thumped a header into the left corner.
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