Sydney FC beat Newcastle to finals spot
Sydney FC secured a place in the A-League finals and ended Newcastle's season with a 3-2 A-League win at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
Needing all three points to avoid missing the finals for the second straight season, a first-half double by youngster Joel Chianese set the scene for the win in front of 14,494 fans.
The Sky Blues led 3-1 at halftime but had to endure some nervy late moments after an 84th minute Jobe Wheelhouse goal revived hopes for the Jets, who needed only a draw to reach the finals.
Sydney held on though, to climb above Melbourne Heart into fifth spot and set up a showdown with fourth-placed Wellington in an elimination final in New Zealand on Friday night.
The result extends the tenure of outgoing coach Vitezslav Lavicka by at least another game before the Czech coach vacates the role reportedly offered to Central Coast coach Graham Arnold for next season.
Lavicka was officially farewelled before Sunday's game, with the 2009/10 title-winning coach receiving a warm ovation from fans, and he would have been delighted by his side's fast start.
Sydney were ahead after only 11 minutes, with Bruno Cazarine firing a powerful header into the net after a superb curling cross from marquee man Brett Emerton.
The Jets almost had a chance to hit back when Michael Bridges looked to have been fouled by Terry McFlynn just inside the box in the 18th minute, but referee Chris Beath awarded a foul just outside the area.
Bridges wasn't to be denied in the 26th minute though, when he revived the visitors' hopes with a tap in.
The goal was set up by a brilliant run and cross from former Sydney player Ruben Zadkovich, who celebrated by taunting Sky Blues' supporters group The Cove just as he had done earlier this season.
Newcastle's joy was short-lived however, as a quick-fire Chianese double put Sydney on the cusp of a finals berth.
There was a touch of fortune to the 22-year-old's first goal in the 30th minute, as he collected a Pascal Bosschaart long ball and had a shot deflected in off Jets striker Ryan Griffiths.
But his second three minutes later was all class, producing a cool finish after clever lead-up work by Emerton.
The Sky Blues looked in control for most of the second half and the Jets never really threatened a comeback until Wheelhouse headed in after Nikolai Topor-Stanley had hit the crossbar with his own header.
Jeremy Brockie had a late chance to win it but ultimately Newcastle left it too late, capping a disappointing finish to the campaign after they had been in a strong position to challenge for the finals.