Macarthur FC could barely muster a word despite mounting a momentous comeback against the Wanderers, conceding with the last kick of the game to succumb to a 2-2 draw at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday night.
Trailing by a goal at the break, the Bulls thought they had completed one of the great upsets of the season when Al Hassan Toure put them into the lead in the 92nd minute, only for the Wanderers to equalise in the sixth minute of injury time – two more than recommended by the 4th official.
As far as results go, it keeps the Bulls’ finals hopes alive however there was no hiding the pain of coming so close to claiming bragging rights and all three points at the expense of their local rivals.
“[I’ve got] no words,” Bulls forward Lachie Rose said. “Honestly, it feels like a loss.”
The frantic finale was in stark contrast to the cagey first half where neither side gave away much in the derby. It restricted opportunities from distance – some of which in vein or hope – as the Bulls stifled Western Sydney’s attack for the opening half-hour.
Wearing the captains armband for the match, forward Rose took the reigns in attack with an audacious lob from distance that almost caught out Lawrence Thomas in the Wanderers goal.
Against the run of play, however, the Wanderers struck. Brandon Borello pierced a packed box with a powerful drive from distance that flew into the far corner to make it 1-0.
Whatever was said from Sterjovski during the break sparked an immediate response from the Bulls who almost restored parity 20 seconds after the restart. Matt Millar broke down the left flank to find Jake Hollman on the edge of the area. The Australian youth international came within centimetres of finding the corner of the net with an instinctive first-time strike.
The hosts came even closer in the 65th minute when Jake McGing’s header crashed off the crossbar however the home fans would bemoan that miss for no less than a minute. Almost immediately after, Rose drew level. McGing turned provider, picking out the run of Rose inside the box and the captain for the day made no mistake from close range, making it 1-1 with an emphatic finish.
McGing went close again before Wanderers’ striker Kusini Yengi should have scored for the Wanderers all before Bulls defender Oliver Jones thwarted Borello’s chance for a second with a last gasp tackle in the dying minutes. It made for a tense finale as the nerves spilled from the stands on to the pitch but one man was seemingly impervious by the emotions. Al Hassan Toure was the coolest man in Campbelltown when he calmly slotted into the bottom corner, side-footing the Bulls into the lead in injury time.
The home fans were celebrating wildly with the full-time whistle imminent. But in the sixth minute of injury time – two more than recommend – the Wanderers stole a point through Borello’s forehead, who scored with the last play of the game to make it 2-2.
“I was proud of the team,” Bulls coach Mile Sterjovski said. “It’s just heartbreaking for the boys because I think they deserved to win the game.”