Coach Ante Milicic says Macarthur FC will be hurting from their A-League finals exit for some time, but he’s confident the competition newcomers have set a platform to kick on.
A Matt Derbyshire double has helped an unconvincing Macarthur FC move closer to a finals spot in their first A-League season, after grinding out a 3-1 home win over a wasteful Melbourne Victory.
First-half goals to their top scorer Derbyshire and James Meredith at Campbelltown Stadium gave Macarthur the advantage, but last-placed Victory were left to rue a glut of missed opportunities.
Victory pulled a goal back in the 78th minute when Elvis Kamsoba scored from close range after a shot from substitute Lleyton Brooks hit the base of a post.
Derbyshire settled the contest in the 89th minute when he slotted in a pass from substitute Michael Ruhs for his 13th goal of the season.
The win lifted Macarthur three spots to second and extended their club record unbeaten run to five games. It left Victory at the bottom.
Melbourne had 13 more shots, but just one more on target and couldn’t punish a more clinical Macarthur, who struggled to produce their usual control of possession.
“We were very vulnerable in transition. I thought we were our worst enemy,” Bulls coach Ante Milicic said.
“For a team that prides itself on its possession and passing game we really gave the ball away cheaply.”
Melbourne conceded in disastrous fashion in the fourth minute, when Dylan Ryan slipped and Derbyshire pounced on the loose ball, dinking it over onrushing Victory goalkeeper Matt Acton.
Macarthur doubled their lead in the 39th minute when James Meredith rounded off a fine team move by charging on to an inviting Jake McGing cross and powered a firm header into the net.
Victory’s tall striker Rudy Gestede twice came close to scoring an equaliser in the first 20 minutes.
He headed a corner just wide and watched Macarthur goalkeeper Adam Federici produce a brilliant save to push away his close-range shot.
Jake Brimmer also threatened for Victory, grazing a post with a sizzling shot from outside the penalty area.
Victory suffered a blow in the 24th minute when they lost experienced Socceroos forward Robbie Kruse to a rolled ankle.
Macarthur’s main opportunity to increase their lead prior to their second goal was foiled by a fine save from Acton, who pushed a Charles M’Mombwa shot onto the crossbar.
Melbourne continued to force the issue in the second half, with Gestede heading straight at Federici and they threatened on several occasions but lacked accuracy In their finishing
“We had a real go but obviously we gave ourselves a bit of a mountain to climb conceding a very early goal,” Victory’s interim coach Steve Kean said.
“It’s a positive thing that we’re creating chances but we’re disappointed we don’t score more goals on the evening.
“But we can only just keep creating, the boys gave everything, effort and commitment was there.
Macarthur’s influential Spanish midfielder Benat Etxebarria didn’t return after halftime due to a tight calf.