AFC recap: Macarthur one step closer to knockout stages after defeating Shan United

Macarthur FC are one step closer to a place in the knockout stages of the AFC Cup after defeating Shan United 4-0 in Bangkok.

Second-half goals from Danny De Silva, Jake Hollman, Tomislav Uskok and Jerry Skotadis were the difference between the two sides, as the Bulls kicked away from their opponents after half-time on Thursday.

The win means Mile Sterjovski’s Macarthur are level on points with Phnom Penh Crown atop Group F but still ahead after the Cambodian champions beat Dynamic Herb Cebu 4-0.

This is because Macarthur hold a head-to-head advantage over Phnom Penh, as a result of a 5-0 victory in Campbelltown on matchday four, which cancelled out the Bulls’ 3-0 defeat on the road to the same opponent.

The Bulls will have to beat Cebu on December 14 in the Philippines to secure passage to the next round of the tournament.

Incredibly, the Bulls now have 20 goals to their name in the group stage, which is the most of all AFC Cup competitors.

Shan – on the other hand – were already eliminated from the competition coming into the contest, and remain bottom of the group with a single point to their name.

Featured image credit: 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC)

Thursday night’s contest was moved from Campbelltown Stadium to Thailand after the federal government refused to grant visas to players from the Myanmar side.

Macarthur were without Ulises Davila, Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Raphael Borges Rodrigues and Ivan Vujica for the match, as they managed their squad for their second game in the space of ten days.

It took the Bulls a while to build into the contest as Shan were able to stay strong defensively in the early going and pose an enormous threat on the counter attack.

Macarthur’s best chance of the half came on the brink of half-time, when Matt Millar flashed a back-post volley against the crossbar.

Finally, Sterjovski’s charges breached Shan’s defence, taking the lead seconds after the second-half got underway. Valere Germain nodded the ball into the path of De Silva, who controlled the ball brilliantly and fired an inch-perfect half volley into the bottom corner.

It was De Silva’s first goal of the season after only returning from injury against Melbourne Victory last weekend.

The Bulls doubled their lead shortly after, as Hollman collected Germain’s blocked shot, before dummying his way past one Shan defender and passing it into the back of the net from close range.

Macarthur wrapped up the win just after the hour mark after Uskok did well to outmuscle his defender and nod home Clayton Lewis’ corner at the back post.

Skotadis – who has never scored in the A-Leagues – added some icing on the cake in the dying minutes.

Hollman burst through the Shan defence, before teeing up the former Western United midfielder who fired the ball through the hands of Shan keeper Kyaw Zin Phyo and into the back of the net.

The Bulls return to Isuzu UTE A-League action on Monday evening, when they face Adelaide United at Campbelltown Stadium.

What about Melbourne City and Central Coast Mariners?

Melbourne City and Central Coast Mariners will both need to win their respective last group stage matches if they want to secure passage to the knockout stages in Asia.

City faced Ventforet Kofu in the AFC Champions League last night, but were held to a 3-3 draw in Tokyo, courtesy of a late equaliser from the Japanese outfit.

Aurelio Vidmar’s side now sit second in Group H, only behind Kofu on goals scored, and two points clear of both Buriram United and Zhejiang, meaning all four sides can qualify for the next round of the competition.

City host Zhejiang on December 12 at Ikon Park, and can qualify via a few different mechanisms, but will need help in the other fixture between Kofu and Arthur Papas’ Buriram.

The reigning premiers have to win against the Chinese outfit, and hope Kofu don’t win against Buriram. They can also qualify for the next round if they draw against Zhejiang and Buriram beat Kofu, with City advancing on head-to-head advantage.

City could also qualify as one of the best second-ranked teams in the East region. However, they are currently sitting in fourth among all second-ranked sides, meaning they would miss out on a place in the next round if they don’t climb into the top three.

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Central Coast, meanwhile, could have wrapped up top spot in their AFC Cup group with a win over Terengganu FC but were forced to scrap for a point, with 17-year-old Miguel Di Pizio arriving off the bench to score a late equaliser with his first senior goal.

The Mariners still sit top of Group G, a point clear of Terengganu, heading into their final group stage match away to bottom-placed Stallion Laguna.

A win over the Laguna will secure their place in the knockout stages, as will essentially bettering any result Terengganu have against Bali United. The Malaysian outfit hold the head-to-head advantage over Central Coast, so a loss and a Terengganu draw would see the latter progress as the group winners.

Similarly to City, the Mariners could also qualify as the best second ranked team in the ASEAN Zone, should they fall behind Terengganu in the group.

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