Hot Ballarat conditions greeted both teams on Saturday afternoon at MARS Stadium, when the Bulls looked to continue their recent good form against Western United.
Despite having the better of the running in the opening 25 minutes, it would be United, against the run, who drew first blood with a classy finish to Iker Guarrotxena from long range.
Fighting hard for the equaliser the Bulls continued to press, but a Besart Berisha tap in on the stroke of half time made the mountain to climb in the second 45 even more challenging.
After a half time address from coach Ante Milicic, the Bulls again started the second half the better, with United’s defence scrambling in the opening exchanges with striker Matt Derbyshire given some room to move, only to hit the post and Western’s Aaron Calver needing to clear James Meredith’s effort off the line.
Despite a dominate 60.9% of possession, the Bulls were out enthused by a hungry United team, who continued to apply presser and transition fast, forcing the Bulls defensive line into overtime.
Two second half goals in quick succession to United’s Dylan Pierias and Berisha – who went to outright second on the Australian National League all-time scoring chart – sealed the 3 points for the green and black.
Matt Derbyshire pulled one consolation goal back in the 90th minute for the visitors – to maintain his equal top spot on the A-League Golden Boot standing – but it was all in vain. Western United 4 Macarthur FC 1.
Macarthur FC coach Ante Milicic said after the match:
“I thought we started ok, but in the end, we found them difficult to break down. The second goal before half time really hurt us.”
“They were very clinical and today wasn’t our day.”
“We were ok in patches, with our ball possession we created plenty of chances, but they have very good footballers, and they pose different problems and are a very difficult outfit.”
“I’m pleased for Matty (Derbyshire), getting on the score sheet. He had a cross bar chance too and was unlucky, I’m also pleased for Lachie Rose to get an assist Matt to get his goal.”
Speaking on completing the opening third of the competition Milicic said:
“You can’t go off the ladder, it’s unrealistic with some teams playing more games than others at this stage, but in terms of us and our playing style it’s about where I expected to be at this stage of the season. We need to be better and more consistent for longer periods of time if we are going to be there at the end of the season.”