A SEASON that started brightly for Newcastle Jets is rapidly approaching crisis point after a 4-0 hammering from Melbourne City at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Adding to the sense of alarm are reports that defender Lee ki-Je will be returning to his native Korea in the January transfer window to join Ulsan Hyundai. A Newcastle spokesman said no deal had been struck but Jets officials were aware of “interest” in the 24-year-old.
Lee’s possible departure, combined with speculation that midfielder David Carney is considering a move to Qatar, cast a further cloud over a dark day for the Jets.
Trailing 1-0 at half-time, Newcastle produced their most disappointing defensive display of this campaign after the interval, conceding three goals in the space of six minutes.
“That is a challenging thing to take at the time, but if I allude to last week against Sydney [a 1-0 loss] it could have been 3-0 at half-time,’’ Jets coach Scott Miller said afterwards. “We got our just desserts today, in a sense, because that could have happened away to Sydney.’’
Socceroos midfielder Aaron Mooy and Uruguayan striker Bruno Fornaroli each scored twice for the visitors, who have now racked up 14 goals in their past three games.
Since Newcastle’s memorable 3-2 comeback win against City in round four, the fortunes of the two teams could hardly have experienced a more startling turnaround. At that point, the Jets were flying high and growing in self-belief after winning three of their first four games under Miller.
They have not won since, after losing two and drawing three of their ensuing games before Sunday’s rout.
City, meanwhile, have taken their game to a new level, posting four wins, a draw and a loss from their past six outings.
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In the process, City have climbed rapidly to third on the points table, while Newcastle have slipped to two points behind the top six.
“The playing group, although it was a challenging day, they worked right until the end . . . I can’t fault their commitment,’’ Miller said.
The loss continued Newcastle’s home-ground hoodoo of the past two years.
Since the start of last season, the Jets have won only two of 19 games at Hunter Stadium. Yet the magnitude of the scoreline came as a surprise, considering how competitive Newcastle have been in every other game this season. It was the first time in 2015-16 that last season’s wooden spooners have lost by more than a goal.
Newcastle’s cause was not helped by the belated withdrawal of skipper Nigel Boogaard, who missed his third straight game with an ankle injury.
Mooy struck a psychological blow when he drew first blood in the 43rd minute, beating Jets goalkeeper Mark Birighitti from close range.
With nonchalant ease, Fornaroli (56th minute), Mooy (59th) and Fornaroli again (62nd) found the net with ruthless precision.
City coach John van’t Schip said his players were in no mood to allow Newcastle back into the game, as they did in round four. “We had that in the back of our minds, that we had to put something right here,’’ he said.