Meredith winner downs Victory and reignites Macarthur's finals charge
James Meredith headed the winner as Macarthur FC came from behind to beat Melbourne Victory 2-1 and get their Final Series push back on course.
Meredith struck his first goal for the Bulls in the 69th minute to turn the tables at AAMI Park, while Spanish ace Markel Susaeta returned to inspire the A-League newcomers to a first win in six games.
The start-up outfit had slipped to seventh place and Macarthur were in danger of seeing their strong early-season work further undone when Elvis Kamsoba drilled the struggling Navy Blue ahead in the 23rd minute, the dynamic Burundi international grabbing his third goal in 55 A-League games.
Bulls coach Ante Milicic welcomed Susaeta back into his line-up after the former La Liga star was sidelined for the past three games, having not started in the last five, and the 33-year-old showed what his team had been missing with a classy 31st-minute equaliser following Jake Brimmer's error.
The away side had controlled the bulk of the possession in the opening 45 minutes but the 11th-placed hosts could have been out of sight at the interval, with Rudy Gestede missing the target from close range, Kamsoba spurning a chance when clean through on goal and Brimmer's free-kick rattling the crossbar.
That escape allowed two-cap Socceroo, Meredith, to provide the decisive moment after the break, powering his first goal in 13 appearances from Beñat Etxebarria's corner, as Macarthur survived some late pressure to climb to third place and keep their dreams of lifting a championship in their maiden season alive.
After Macarthur had drawn three games in a row during Susaeta's absence, the Spanish ace quickly sprang into action, drifting back from an offside position to collect Beñat’s delicate pass but skewing his eighth minute shot wide. Victory responded during a cagey opening quarter of an hour when Kamsoba capped a weaving run with a strike that stung the palms of Adam Federici.
The Bulls were being patient in possession but the Navy Blue's direct approach had them rocked when Jacob Butterfield's launched pass was flick on by Gestede. The powerhouse forward had drawn Jake McGing inside, leaving Kamsoba wide open to add a lethal finish. Now Victory were buzzing as Kamsoba again flew forward but Robbie Kruse could not angle Butterfield's chipped pass on target.
The goal jolted Macarthur into life as Susaeta found Matt Derbyshire with a whipped cross but the Bulls' top goalscorer could not angle his header on target. When Brimmer gifted possession to Beñat following a short-sighted turn, the ex-Athletic Bilbao playmaker found his compatriot, Susaeta, who finished in style into the roof of the net to level the scores eight minutes after falling behind.
For all of Macarthur's possession and territorial advantage, it was Victory forcing the issue in the closing stages of the opening stanza. Kruse scuffed a close-range attempt, Gestede headed Leigh Broxham's cross over and lifted another Broxham delivery off target moments later. Kamsoba burst through but could not beat Federici, and the hosts were cursing their luck when Brimmer's dead-ball effort crashed off the frame.
Victory picked up where the left off as Kamsoba lashed an effort over, but they were suddenly breathing a sigh of relief when McGing headed Beñat's corner into the net but Macarthur were penalised for a Meredith handball. Dylan Ryan sliced over following Grimmer's flick at the other end but, when Meredith diverted another Beñat set piece into the corner, this time there would be no Navy Blue reprieve.
Brimmer rifled a strike from the edge of the penalty area over the Macarthur crossbar as the home side upped the tempo as the clock passed 80 minutes. Moments later the midfielder played through the towering Gestede, who shook off the challenge of Mark Milligan, and forced a reaction save from Federici from six yards out as Victory once again came up short and the Bulls returned to winning ways.
Next fixture – Matchweek 21
Macarthur FC v Melbourne Victory
Friday, 14 May 2021
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
Kick-off: 7.05pm AEST
Ways to watch
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