21/02/2024

Macarthur celebrating a goal against Western United during Unite Round. Photo Credit: Joshua Davis/The Inner Sanctum

Macarthur have advanced into the AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final after a 3-0 victory over Malaysian side Sabah FC.

The game did not start off how the hosts would have wanted, as they struggled to break down the Sabah defence despite having over 65 per cent of the ball through the opening half an hour with only two shots to show for it.

Tomislav Uskok (17th min) and Yianni Nicolaou (26th min) both found themselves on yellow cards, making the task harder for the Bulls to try and secure victory.

Ulises Davila opened the scoring in the 40th minute for the home side to make it 1-0 with a goal Macarthur desperately needed, having worked the possession up to over 70 per cent with only three total shots prior to the goal.

“I kind of expected Sabah to be strong, especially in the first half. As we saw, they were very physical, and us having to back up from the other day was going to be very difficult,” Macarthur coach Mile Sterjovski said post-game.

“We had to be patient. I was pleased to get the goal in the first half.

“As the game went on I thought we started to control it more and it played out how we thought it would play out.”

After taking the 1-0 lead into the break, Macarthur did not have to wait long to double their advantage, with Jed Drew scoring after a scintillating run which started on his own side of the halfway line, slamming it into the back of the net.

Sabah would have a goal ruled out for offside barely a minute later, and inside the opening two minutes the second half had already delivered more excitement than the entire first half.

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Tensions began to rise between the two sides, with Sabah’s Ko Kwang Min at the centre of it, but referee Nasrullo Kabirov settled things down quickly to restore order.

As the second half continued on, the gulf in quality began to grow between the two sides and it became very clear that Sabah were indeed a side who had not played a competitive fixture since their league season ended in December.

Jed Drew sealed the result, scoring a brace to make it 3-0 in the 80th minute and ensuring Macarthur’s progression in the AFC Cup.

“I’m very happy individually but I think as a team we were very solid,” Drew said after his performance.

“We’ve just got to keep pushing. We want this really badly.”

Macarthur will now play the Central Coast Mariners in the AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final after the Mariners defeated Phnom Penh Crown 4-0 in the other Zonal Semi-Final.

When asked post-game if he had a preference prior to the result being known, Sterjovski said he did not, reiterating his comments from his pre-game press conference.

“Like I said before the match, for every team to reach this round, they have to be a quality team.

“We just have to worry about us and make sure we perform to our best.”

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