World Cup-bound striker Jamie Maclaren continued his prolific form as A-League leaders Melbourne City maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 2-1 win over Newcastle on Saturday.
City survived the second-half dismissal of midfielder Aiden O’Neill at McDonald Jones Stadium to win for the fifth time this season and condemn the Jets to a third successive defeat.
Maclaren, set to head to Qatar as part of the Socceroos’ 26-man World Cup squad, netted City’s winner in the 57th minute from close range after receiving an inch-perfect pass from Marco Tilio.
It was Maclaren’s eighth goal in six matches this season, with the 29-year-old marksman now having scored in six successive A-League games twice in his stellar domestic career.
City coach Patrick Kisnorbo said his team was “very lucky” to have Maclaren.
“He’s fantastic to have in the team.” Kisnorbo said.
“(Socceroos coach) Graham Arnold will make the decision whether he plays or not (at the World Cup).”
After taking the lead for the second time in the match via Maclaren’s goal, City was reduced to 10 men in the 75th minute when O’Neill was shown a red card after being booked for a second time.
O’Neill jumped high in a challenge with Angus Thurgate, with his arm making contact with the face of the Jets midfielder.
Earlier, a shocking error from Newcastle goalkeeper Michael Weier gifted City the lead in the 20th minute.
Charging out of his penalty area in an attempt to deal with a through ball from O’Neill, Weier misjudged the bounce and was left stranded as Dutchman Richard van der Venne pounced to score his first A-League goal.
City’s lead lasted 18 minutes before an own goal from the Melbourne side’s captain Scott Jamieson secured the Jets an equaliser.
It was then left to the A-League’s most feared striker Maclaren to restore City’s advantage 12 minutes after half-time, with the assist from Tilio somewhat easing the pain of failure to be named in Australia’s World Cup squad alongside club teammates Maclaren and Mathew Leckie, who was again among his team’s best performers.
“We knew it was going to be tough here and Newcastle’s a really good side,” Leckie told Paramount +.
“We knew they would move the ball around well and we’d have to be on our game/ It’s all about energy and doing the hard yards.
“It was a good show of character from the boys, the last 15 minutes (after) the red card we battled it out to keep the win.”
Leckie said he was “battered and bruised” from the match.
“I got a couple of knocks and I’ll try to get some ice on that … and then (I’m) heading off (on Sunday night) to Qatar,” he said.