Maiden A-Leagues goals from veteran duo fire Macarthur to victory over reigning champions

Enjoy all the action from Sunday's afternoon kick-off.

Maiden Isuzu UTE A-League goals from star signing Valere Germain and Kearyn Baccus have lifted Macarthur FC to a 2-1 victory over reigning champions Central Coast Mariners at Industree Group Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Germain cooly slotted home the opener just before the hour mark, before Baccus scored his first A-Leagues goal in 112 matches, to give Mile Sterjovski’s side a two-goal lead.

Brian Kaltak pulled one back late in the contest, but it wasn’t enough to inspire a late comeback, as the Bulls took home their first win of the league season only days after they fell to a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Phnom Penh Crown in the AFC Cup.

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Central Coast, however, thought they had an equaliser only moments after Germain opened the scoring through A-Leagues debutant Bradley Tapp, but his goal was disallowed due to an offside in the build-up by the VAR.

Tapp’s goal was originally disallowed, then overturned after referee Adam Kersey consulted with his assistant, but was again disallowed by the VAR after celebrations ensued in the seconds after.

It now means the reigning champions are without a point to begin their Championship defence under new Football Manager Mark Jackson.

Incredibly, the 2022 champions Western United also didn’t claim a point from their opening two games last season.

The Mariners – who regained Alou Kuol and Kaltak after they missed their 6-3 victory over Bali United in the AFC Cup – started brightly, with both Christian Theoharous and Angel Torres having chances stopped by Filip Kurto.

Later in the half, Torres again forced another smart stop from Kurto, as the Mariners continued to ramp up the pressure on the Bulls defence.

Macarthur also welcomed back the likes of Germain, Kurto and Ivan Vujica for the contest, and did well to soak up the early pressure, before making the Mariners pay on the break.

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Kaltak failed to clear his lines at the half-way line, which created a 4v3 in the Bulls attack. Jake Hollman burst down the left-hand side and found an unmarked Germain, who expertly buried the ball into the top corner.

However, moments after the former Monaco forward scored, Tapp thought he had equalised for the home side.

Torres’ cross was met by Kuol’s head (and seemingly his arm), before falling to Marco Tulio, whose shot smashed the post and fell at the feet of Tapp to bury into the back of the net from close range.

The goal was originally disallowed by the offside flag, but after Kersey consulted with his assistant, the goal was given.

However, during the ensuing celebrations, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) stepped in to deny the reigning Isuzu UTE A-League champions an equaliser.

Macarthur put the result beyond doubt as Baccus finally slammed home his first league goal, smashing it back across the face of Danny Vukovic’s goal to give his side a two-goal lead.

Jackson’s side, however, didn’t go down without a fight, as Kaltak slammed home his first A-Leagues goal to set up a grandstand finish in second-half stoppage time, but it was too little, too late.

In a further blow to the Mariners, full-back Mikael Doka came off with an injury in the second-half.

The talking point

Moments after Valere Germain gave the Bulls the lead at Industree Group Stadium, A-Leagues Bradley Tapp thought he had equalised for the home side.

Angel Torres’ cross was met by Alou Kuol’s head and seemingly his arm, before falling to Marco Tulio, whose shot smashed the post and fell at the feet of Tapp to bury into the back of the net from close range.

What ensued next was a chaotic sequence of events.

The goal was originally disallowed by the assistant referee, but after referee Adam Kersey consulted with his assistant, the goal was given by the latter.

However, during the ensuing celebrations, VAR stepped in to deny the reigning Isuzu UTE A-League champions a would-be equaliser.

The star

Valere Germain has arrived in the A-Leagues.

Macarthur’s star off-season signing opened up his account against the Mariners with an inch-perfect finish into the top corner to give the Bulls the lead.

Germain has already shown his quality throughout their AFC Cup run so far, and looked as if he benefited enormously from being rested for the clash against Phnom Penh Crown on Thursday night.

What they said

Macarthur FC’s Keanu Baccus: “The boys dug deep today. It’s difficult travelling away, coming back and playing but big effort from the boys and I’m happy to get a goal today.

“I said to the boys, I’m going to score a couple this year. I’m feeling good, I got a new contract and I’m happy we get a result today.”

Macarthur FC’s Jake Hollman added: “Massive, massive week. Probably been the biggest week of my football life in terms of travelling 20 hours there, playing in Cambodia which is hot and humid conditions.

“They were a good opposition. It was tough. We flew back, got home 9pm last night and had to back up this afternoon.”

Central Coast Mariners Football Manager Mark Jackson said: “We can do better with the goals, but disappointing that we didn’t take our chances and kill the game off when we had the chance.

“I don’t know anything about the injury at the minutes (to Doka). It’s clear that he had to come off and we wanted to freshen the team up anyway… We have to do that with the amount of games we have in the AFC Cup competition as well.”

What this means

Macarthur have now claimed four points from their opening two games, starting the 2023-24 A-Leagues season brightly despite the setback in the AFC Cup this week.

Sterjovski’s charges are back home next week against Western United, and would go in with plenty of confidence after they fell to a 5-0 defeat to cross-town rivals Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, Central Coast are still looking for their first points of the season, after back-to-back defeats.

The Mariners should benefit from a full week of rest before they jet west to take on Perth Glory on Saturday night, who are also looking for their first win.