Venue change no worry for Macarthur in a club first semi final

Macarthur and Tommy Oar have made their first finals series in their inaugural year. (Picture: perthglory.com.au)

The Macarthur Football Club will be facing one of the biggest games in its short lifespan come Sunday afternoon.

Ladder leader Melbourne City has looked unbeatable at times in the 2020/21 A-League season, an attacking maelstrom that leaves teams (and their goalkeepers) battered and bruised.

The new kids on the block are yet to defeat the blue giants, going down 3-0 in their first meeting in March before grinding out a 1-1 draw in April.

While the upcoming semi final was supposed to be played at AAMI Park, COVID restrictions in Melbourne saw the game relocated to Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney, to allow for a full crowd.

Socceroo and Macarthur forward Tommy Oar isn’t phased by the change of the venue, saying he’ll prepare for the game as he normally would.

“The world we live in at the moment with COVID and everything going on, a lot of things are out of our hands,” Oar told The Inner Sanctum.

“From a player’s perspective, we weren’t really too worried about where the game was going to be played, it was just kind of taking it as it comes.

“From a fan’s perspective it’s great that our fans will have chance to come and watch us play a bit easier than they would have otherwise. It’ll be great to have the support at the game on Sunday.

“Obviously it’s a bit of a shame for Melbourne City. Winning the minor premiership, they deserve the right to host a finals match.”

Oar has played in a number of high pressure games, including UEFA Champions League games and World Cup qualifiers with the Socceroos.

This experience, he believes, will hold him in good stead come Sunday.

He’s not the only one in the Macarthur side that will bring that experience with them into the clash though.

Captain Mark Milligan, Matt Derbyshire and Markel Susaeta have all represented their countries on the biggest stages there are, just to name a few.

For a squad that was just formed this year, Oar says this will give them a unique advantage in finals.

“I think all players have their set routines, and the more experienced you are, the less you let the occasion get to you, and the more you just focus on your job in the game,” he explained.

“If you look around our squad we’ve got a lot of experienced players. Players that not only have experience in the A-League and have won titles in the A-League, but also experience internationally, playing abroad in the Socceroos [and other national teams].

“We’ve got a lot of experience, and I feel like you play the game, not the occasion. As cliché as that sounds, I think that rings true.

“That holds us in good stead, that we have players that know how to handle that.”

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City will be missing two Socceroos on the weekend again, Curtis Good and Jamie Maclaren performing international duties over in Kuwait, helping Australia cement world cup qualification.

While goalkeeper Adam Federici will sleep easier knowing that Golden Boot winner Maclaren won’t be peppering the net, Oar is keeping his expectations realistic.

He understands that every A-League side has been affected by players leaving internationally.

“We’ve lost Denis Genreau as well, so everyone’s lost a little bit this finals series,” Oar said.

“You obviously want to play against the best in the finals. On one hand it’s a little bit disappointing from the league perspective that you’re not going to have all these players available, but at the end of the day you can only play the cards you’re dealt.

“We know they’ll be a big test for us regardless. They’ve got a lot of depth in their squad.

“Jamie Maclaren’s the best striker in the league, and he’s proven that over the last period, so we know that’s a big loss for them.

“They have a lot of capable players coming in as well, so we’re going to have to play really well to get a good result. I think the focus for us as always isn’t too much on them, it’s more on us.”

A gusty win, a man down

The Bulls first ever finals win against the Central Coast Mariners in a do-or-die elimination final will be a special one in the hearts of fans for a long time to come.

With both sides still deadlocked at nil all deep into the second half, defender James Meredith was shown a red card in the 75th minute and left the field.

A man down, Macarthur kept scores tied for the next 20 minutes as Federici held true in front of the net.

Oar found himself subbed off in the 87th minute, but not by the choice of coach Ante Milicic, but his own body letting him down.

“Coming off, you never want to come off but I started to cramp up so I didn’t really much other option!,” he explained with a laugh.

“With 10 men, we knew we had our backs against the wall.

“We knew that we would have a chance to catch them on the counter, we have a lot of players who are dangerous on the counter.

“You look at our subs who came off the bench, they’re all really good and quick athletes. Playing on the counter would fall into their hands almost, and suit them better. We knew we were still capable of scoring.

“We have a really close knit squad as well, so the players on the bench and whoever’s playing and whoever’s in the stands, we all wish each other well. We have a really good team culture around that.

“I had a lot of faith in the boys who came on. You know in finals you always need a little bit of the rub of the green, and I think in this game we did get that, but we earned that through our hard work.”

While Macarthur couldn’t score in the first half, Charles M’Mombwa broke the duck with a well-timed header off a Susaeta assist in the 93rd minute.

The Bulls were home from there, Michael Ruhs icing the game at the 121st.

While the late goals were ultimately what sealed the gutsy win, Oar believes that starting well, both for him and the rest of the team, was crucial.

“In the first kind of 20-30 minutes I was getting a lot of ball on my left, and managed to find a bit of space, which was obviously enjoyable,” he said.

“Unfortunately for us we had the goal ruled out for offside at the start so we were unable to really capitalise on that fast start. I think that kind of set the tone for the rest of the game, it gave us a lot of confidence, starting well.

“I think that the Mariners were up against it after our fast start, and that allowed us even after we went to 10 men to stay in the game.

“Starting well is obviously always very important, and we know that starting fast against Melbourne City, who are notorious for being one of the fastest starters in the league and have always come out of the blocks firing, we know we have to do well.”

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About Alex Catalano 310 Articles
Alex is a studying journalist from Melbourne with an obsession for all things Aussie rules, and a commitment to providing equal coverage and recognition to women's sport. A sport all-rounder, Alex reports on Aussie rules, football, basketball, netball, cricket and esports.

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