Brave Bulls cop TWO red cards but claim three points in wild battle with Sky Blues

Watch all the highlights from Macarthur's 1-0 win over Sydney FC

Macarthur FC have clinched a monumental victory over Sydney FC, with Jed Drew’s solitary goal in a 1-0 win coming either side of two red cards to Bulls players in a dramatic contest at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

Ivan Vujica was controversially sent off in the 36th minute after intervention from VAR and a review of a challenge between the Macarthur defender and Sydney’s Joe Lolley which initially earned a yellow card before an upgrade to red.

Bulls winger Drew scored after Vujica’s dismissal to give Macarthur the lead in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time and against all odds, the hosts held onto their one-goal advantage all the way to full-time, despite going down to nine men with 25 minutes to play after Tommy Smith’s send-off for catching the face of Sydney striker Fabio Gomes with his forearm.

Macarthur’s gutsy win, recorded in front of the biggest home crowd at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in the club’s history (7723), sent Mile Sterjovski’s side above Sydney into fourth spot on the Isuzu UTE A-League table.

The Bulls are just one point behind Melbourne Victory in third ahead of the final round of the regular season; the two teams that finish third and fourth will host Elimination Finals in the first week of the Finals Series.

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After his side’s frustrating 1-0 loss, Sydney FC winger Joe Lolley – who was on the receiving end of the tackle that led to Vujica’s early red card, was asked what he made of the contentious decision to send off the Bulls fullback.

“I think it’s shocking,” Lolley told Paramount+. “It’s every week, it seems to be, in the A-League.

“A red card for, I don’t know. He’s caught me a little bit, but it’s just football. You see (those) challenges every week. It makes you scared of trying to make a tackle. 

“The statistics are there, it’s a stupid amount of reds at the moment and they’re ruining games of football.

“I tried to tell the ref: ‘It’s never a red. It’s a foul, maybe a yellow at best’ and move on.”

Post-game, Macarthur head coach Mile Sterjovski referred to Lolley’s reaction to the incident when asked for what he made of Vujica’s red card.

“When Lolley says that it’s not a red, it’s obvious it’s not a red,” Sterjovski said. “I think both players have their feet up, I think the ref has got it wrong there. I was right there as well. I didn’t think it was a red.”

In a statement released on Saturday night, Football Australia’s head of referees Nathan Magill said: “In relation to the two direct Red Cards in the Macarthur FC and Sydney FC A-League Men match this evening, as is process, all matches and the performances of officials from the Round will be reviewed by the Football Australia Referees Department on Monday.”

Sydney defender Rhyan Grant flashed a narrow-angled strike just wide of the bottom-left corner in the third minute, to set the tone for an entertaining start to the contest in Campbelltown.

Sydney keeper Andrew Redmayne did well to parry a Clayton Lewis free-kick out of danger, then Ivan Vujica – who has just one Isuzu UTE A-League goal to his name – attempted to double that figure with an outrageous attempt from distance that dipped over the crossbar and onto the roof of the net.

An injury to young Bulls winger Raphael Borges Rodrigues led to an early substitution for the home side. Charles M’Mombwa came off the bench to replace Raphael and received the best chance of the half after Jed Drew’s driving run down the left wing.

Drew left Hayden Matthews in his wake then cut back inside the Sydney defender, and picked out M’Mombwa with a cross the Bulls substitute controlled and fired into Redmayne’s arms.

The M’Mombwa chance put Macarthur on the front foot but a controversial red card, given to Vujica after a VAR review, knocked the stuffing out of the home side.

On-field referee Daniel Elder initially gave Vujica a yellow for collecting Joe Lolley on the ankle with a high boot when the two players challenged one another for a loose ball near the touchline.

But after a significant delay in play, Elder returned to the field of play, having reviewed the incident, and produced the red card from his back pocket to reduce Macarthur to 10 men in contentious circumstances.

Paramount+ pitchside reporter Niav Owens described the action as Vujica went down the tunnel at Campbelltown Stadium.

“I think even the Sydney FC players (are) really feeling for Vujica over that one,” Owens said.

“During, the fourth official had a word with the referee, the referee came and checked the vision as you heard. He checked whether there was sustained contact with that raised boot. 

“But even the Sydney FC bench was saying: ‘Not everything is a red card’, and a number of Sydney FC players went and gave Vujica a hug as he left the field.”

At half-time, former Socceroo and Paramount+ analyst Luke Wilkshire assessed the incident.

“As former players, these challenges happen. There’s no malice there,” Wilkshire said.

“At first, he didn’t even get a booking, a yellow card. We saw the fourth official call the referee to give him a yellow. Then for the fact to go back – they both have their feet up high, there’s minimal contact, it’s a yellow card, move on.”

Vujica departs the pitch after his first-half red card.

But after the deflating send-off, Macarthur dug in as a unit of 10 and by half-time, had carved out a surprise one-goal lead.

Drew was a bright spark throughout the opening stanza and the Bulls youngster produced the opening goal; his first shot was saved by Redmayne but fell back into his path for a finish into the roof of the net.

Sydney had a penalty claim for handball waved away soon after as Macarthur held their 1-0 lead to the break.

Bulls keeper Filip Kurto looked to have single-handedly kept his side in the contest when he denied Fabio Gomes in a one-on-one early in the second half but the offside flag rendered the big chance meaningless.

Down the other end Drew continued to have a big say in proceedings. Drew dribbled across the edge of the area and slipped a reverse pass through Sydney’s defensive line to Valère Germain but the experienced Frenchman couldn’t capitalise as Redmayne sprawled at his feet to save.

Macarthur had their work cut out for them as they held onto a one-goal advantage with one less player on the park – but their challenge became all the more difficult when Smith received a red card via another VAR intervention.

Much like Vujica’s send-off, referee Elder elected to give Smith a yellow after catching Fabio in the face with his forearm. But Elder reviewed the contact on the pitchside monitor, and once again decided to upgrade yellow to red and reduce the Bulls to nine.

With a two-player advantage Sydney pressed on in search of an equaliser and thought they had one when Lolley controlled Luke Brattan’s in-swinging cross and brushed the ball into the back of the net but there was more drama to come in Campbelltown.

After another lengthy delay, the on-field call to allow Lolley’s goal to stand was reversed as the replays showed the Englishman had strayed beyond Macarthur’s defensive line.

Sydney centre-back Gabriel Lacerda lashed a long-range strike just past the top-right corner deep into stoppage-time as Sydney tried to no avail to draw level with the nine-man Bulls.