Coach ‘pressing all the right buttons’ to get the best out of young gun ‘whose star is shining’

A superb finish from 20-year-old Raphael Borges Rodrigues secured all three points for Macarthur FC in a comeback 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar at Ballymore Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Brisbane took the lead early through Florin Berenguer but were pegged back by Tomislav Uskok’s header from a Bulls corner in the 26th minute. After rescinding the lead, the hosts found themselves trailing 2-1 when Raphael bagged his fourth goal of the season shortly before half-time.

Thomas Waddingham wasted a big chance to bring Brisbane level in the second half and Marco Rojas hit the post as the home side toiled to find a way back into the game to no avail.

Three big points on the road helped the Bulls above Melbourne Victory into third place on the Isuzu UTE A-League table. Brisbane, meanwhile, failed to draw level on points with Melbourne City in sixth and remain three points shy of the finals standings.

The Roar broke the deadlock in the 14th minute through the simplest of finishes for Berenguer, who arrived at the back post to tap the ball into the back of the net after Rojas’ initial shot was pushed into his path by Filip Kurto.

Keegan Jelacic looked to make it two after a driving run down the right wing into the box. The Olyroos forward fired towards Kurto’s near post but the Bulls gloveman reacted quickly to push the ball out for a corner.

Jelacic backed up that attempt with a fizzing effort from distance in the 22nd minute, denied once more by a diving Kurto save.

A set piece drawn up on the training ground almost reaped reward for Macarthur as Ulises Dávila shaped to whip a wide free-kick into the box before cutting the ball to the edge of the area where Clayton Lewis arrived to whip a first-time attempt on target.

Macklin Freke was alert to the danger and tipped the ball over the bar.

But suddenly Macarthur were threatening and a Lewis corner soon after found Uskok unmarked in the box for a simple header to level the score.

From one goal down to 2-1 up, Macarthur ended the first half in the lead after an abject piece of Roar defending combined with a stellar finish from young Bulls forward Raphael, who lashed his side into the lead shortly before the break.

“How about the technique on the finish?” Said Ben Homer on Paramount+ commentary. “Raphael with a ripper!”

“A great effort from the youngster, Raphael, whose star is really shining,” added co-commentator Andy Harper. “Very crisp, laser-like finish from Raphael.

“A dropping, spinning ball behind him at a very awkward height. He really is looking good. Great football DNA, his dad Cristiano a great player for Adelaide United. The systems he’s been involved with can all take their credit.

“You have to say, without knowing any better, that Mile Sterjovski is pressing all the right buttons with some of these youngsters, doing a great job.”

Star Roar striker Thomas Waddingham missed his side’s Round 20 draw with Sydney FC with a knock and returned off the bench against Macarthur.

The teenager was gifted a glorious chance to draw Brisbane back level after Kearyn Baccus headed back toward his own goal but Waddingham fired high over the crossbar on the volley.

Rojas was next to threaten for the Roar. The New Zealand international cut past Charles M’Mombwa with some neat dribbling but his shot rattled the woodwork.

Waddingham and Rojas had the two best chances of the second half for the home side as Macarthur kept their one-goal lead intact to the final whistle.

After sealing an impressive win over the Roar on the road, Macarthur head coach Mile Sterjovski lauded Raphael for attempting the audacious in the match-winning moment.

“I think (Raphael) has been great for us this season,” Sterjovski said. “He’s got the confidence to do those kind of things.

“He’s a player that’s got a very bright future. I’m very pleased for him (and) the way he took his goal.”