Victory grounds the Jets and moves into third after narrow win

Melbourne Victory missed a penalty and had a goal disallowed but Kevin Muscat's men were still good enough to see off the challenge of the high-flying Newcastle Jets and move up to third spot on the A-League table in a thrilling and at times frenetic contest at AAMI Park.

Goals from Kosta Barbarouses and Besart Berisha either side of half-time cancelled out Jason Hoffman's equaliser late in the opening period and were enough to give Victory a 2-1 win, putting them just ahead of Melbourne City on goal difference although the latter does have a game in hand.

This was an entertaining game which showcased what the A-League, a competition which has come in for a fair degree of criticism this season, can offer in front of a crowd of 15,534, swelled by English fans who had decided to take in a visit to AAMI Park after being rained off at the cricket across the road at the MCG.

Both sides began in an adventurous mood, Victory looking to find space out on the flanks and get Dutch wide man Leroy George involved as often as possible: he linked up well in a good move with James Troisi in the seventh minute only to see his cross deflected out for a corner

But Newcastle were giving as good as they got in these early exchanges and Hoffman, reinvented as an attacking option by coach Ernie Merrick, should have put the visitors in front in the 10th minute.

After a good period of Newcastle possession centre back Nikolai Topor-Stanley floated a delicate chip in Hoffman's direction from outside the Victory penalty area. The Jets forward was all alone and really should have at least got a free header on target rather than direct the ball over the bar.

At the other end Troisi tried to find Berisha with a lobbed pass, but goalkeeper Glen Moss was out smartly to collect. Victory defender Rhys Williams then had to time his challenge perfectly to avoid giving away a penalty as he slid in to win the ball from the Jets' dangerous forward Andrew Nabbout as he hared towards goal.

Nabbout then had a good chance to break the deadlock from a Dimitri Petratos cross but could not get close enough to get a touch. Another Nabbout shot was then saved by Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas as both sides threatened.

But it was Victory who took the lead in the 34th minute with a well-worked goal which owed much to the rekindled partnership of Jason Geria and Barbarouses on the right flank.

The latter won the ball and played a pass back to Mark Milligan, whose first-time effort found Geria in space. The full-back ignored terrace chants to shoot and instead cut the ball back for Barbarouses to sweep home from just inside the penalty area.

George almost doubled the advantage in the 40th minute when he took a Tommy Deng pass on his chest and ghosted past a challenge before driving a fierce shot against Moss' post.

But just before the interval the Jets got back on level terms, Hoffman making amends for his earlier miss in splendid fashion.

The tall forward fastened onto a defence-splitting pass from Steven Ugarkovic, took the ball in his stride and as Thomas advanced stayed cool to drive in the equaliser.

It only took Victory some eight minutes to re-establish their lead and it was a goal which illustrated just how effective quick movement and decisive passing can be.

Milligan won the ball in midfield from Ugarkovic and found George. The Dutchman played a first-time ball through to Berisha, who sprinted for goal and then drove powerfully past Moss, beating the keeper with both power and placement.

Victory had a golden opportunity to put the game to bed just before the hour mark when Barbarouses found Geria on a rampaging run down the right, which was only halted when he was brought down Ivan Vujica.

Referee Chris Beath pointed to the spot but Milligan, who had calmly slotted home the decisive penalty in the final moments against City six nights ago, could not repeat the trick, Moss saving a shot which went straight at him.

Lawrence had to dive smartly to stop Ugarkovic's low shot from the edge of the area, Hoffman again headed over from close range and Berisha had the ball in the net again only for his volley from George's free kick to be ruled out for offside, one of several offside calls which frustrated Victory fans and players alike.

This story Victory grounds the Jets and moves into third after narrow win first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.