The Western Sydney Wanderers began their 2020/21 A-League campaign hosting new side Macarthur FC, resulting in a lucky 1-0 win for the visitors after a Mark Milligan deflection from a free kick gave the Bulls all three points in their debut.
Macarthur FC Bulls out of Campbelltown drove down the Hume Highway to take part in their first ever A-League match. The Wanderers new manager Carl Robinson picked a lineup including all of the major new signings for the champions of Asia, with James Troisi, Graham Dorrans, Bernie Ibini, Daniel Margush and Ziggy Gordon joining returning players Tass Mourdoukoutas, Daniel Georgievski, Tate Russell, Keanu Baccus, Simon Cox and newly appointed club Captain Dylan McGowan.
The opening stages were a flurry of activity with little end result, until the officials and the VAR made their introduction with the awarding of a clear handball against Jovanovic after the defender reacted poorly to a long shot from Dorrans, and moved his arms from his side into the path of the ball. The referee after spending 5 minutes reviewing slow motion replays elected to overturn his correct decision and cancel the penalty.
Simon Cox was later booked after tripping over his feet in the Macarthur penalty area, as it to emphasis yet again that the referees will be looking for any excuse to punish the Wanderers. New season, same old referees in the A-League. Macarthur dominated most of the half, with multiple chances falling to Wanderers youth product Moudi Najjar.
Tate Russell had one of the better chances after cutting inside onto his left before firing into the hands of Adam Federici at the near post of the Macarthur goal. Russell sprug into life again with a burst down the sideline, his cutback found Cox and the marquee striker hammered it high but straight and Federici tipped it over. From the resulting corner the ball fell to Ibini, he was on the back foot and his strike lacked direction.
The two sides traded shots on target in the first minutes of the second half, Troisi brought out the best from Federici in order to stop his sliding shot.
Macarthur thought they had their first A-League goal, James Meredith sliced through the Wanderers defence before sliding the ball across the 6 yard box for an unmarked Rose to tap in from a few yards out, only to be denied by a very tight, but accurate, offside flag. Federici was called into action again in the 55th minute, after Macarthur blocked a Dorrans shot that fell to Baccus the young midfielder fired towards the top corner and the Bulls custodian leapt into the air to keep it out. It was followed up by a mammoth goal-line scramble with Troisi, Mourdoukoutas, Ibini all getting touches but Gordon couldn't find an angle to shoot. Daniel Margush saved a mirror effort of Cox's shot from the first half, this time coming from Bulls substitute Benat.
Keanu Baccus gave away what became a fatal free kick in the 71st minute. His slight clip of Hollman invited the ref to hand Macarthur a free kick slightly off-centre and 24 yards out from goal. He fired towards the far post before a massive deflection diverted the ball past a Margush desperate lunge to give the visitor's their first goal in a competitive fixture.
As the game entered stoppage time Mark Milligan tried to chip Margush from beyond halfway but lacked the power to fly over the head of the keeper. Kwame Yeboah got lucky as a Macarthur tackle knocked the ball into his path, with a couple of strides into the area he shot toward the near post but Federici's outstretched hand blocked it well.
Ultimately the Wanderers did the same thing they've done for years now, fail to gel with their passing combinations, lacked quality in the final third and ran around like headless chickens for no reward. It's not the start Carl Robinson would have asked for, and keeps the Wanderers in last place with fellow first round losers Brisbane Roar.
The Wanderers next match is scheduled for Friday the 8th of January 2021 against Newcastle Jets in Newcastle.