Three A-League Men’s clubs – Western United, Macarthur FC and Central Coast – are enduring COVID-19 outbreaks and cannot complete their immediate fixtures.
Macarthur FC coach Ante Milicic is unconcerned about a costly final-round defeat against Wellington Phoenix that saw his side slip to sixth and set to be without influential midfielder Loic Puyo due to suspension.
The A-League new boys went into Friday night’s match at their Campbelltown Stadium home eyeing third and a home semi-final, but instead slipped to sixth just one point clear of the Phoenix, with a one-sided 3-0 scoreline.
Playing their fourth match in 12 games, Milicic suggested his primary focus was a week away by electing to leave out a couple of familiar names, including top goalscorer Matt Derbyshire, who was one caution away from suspension.
The Bulls will, however, be without midfield import Puyo next week after he was dismissed for a high challenge just before the hour mark.
Milicic had little issue with the red card despite the Frenchman being seemingly unlucky to receive his marching orders upon VAR review.
“We got beaten by a very good footballing side. We weren’t quite there today, but we got some match minutes into some players,” said Milicic.
Spanish pair Benat and Markel Susaeta were both also absent for the Bulls and Milicic was non-committal about the former’s possible return from a calf injury for next weekend.
“I was a bit concerned going into the match for our attacking third, missing Derbyshire and Susaeta.
“In the end we turned over the ball too easily in the front third and they (Phoenix) are frightening on the counter-attack.”
David Ball and Tomer Hemed scored either side of the halftime for the Phoenix, before substitute Ben Waine added to the home side’s misery in the dying moments.
Macarthur will now face an away visit to either Brisbane Roar or Central Coast Mariners for their maiden A-League semi-final.
It is just a second defeat in nine outings for the Bulls and Milicic believes the result is more of a blip than a concern ahead of next weekend.
“In a one-off game, with this group of players that we have, we have as good a chance as any team,” he said.
“We know we have good enough quality, and good enough professionals around the squad to understand that we can stand up to anyone, whether that is home or away.
“We have been in the top-six since Round 1 and we are still in the top-six at the end of the season, so we are here for a reason and that is because this side deserve it and are good enough.”