Wet and windy ALM draw for Bulls-Phoenix

A stunning back-post volley by Macarthur’s Lachlan Rose has secured the Bulls a 1-1 draw against Wellington in their relocated A-League Men season opener in Newcastle.

Played in wet and windy conditions at McDonald Jones Stadium after the match had to be moved from Campbelltown Stadium due to an unplayable surface at Macarthur’s home ground, Rose’s 61st-minute strike cancelled out Gary Hooper’s first-half penalty to ensure both teams started their seasons with a point each.

The Phoenix offered more threat than Macarthur in the opening half and nearly took the lead in the eighth minute only for Bulls’ keeper Filip Kurto to make a smart save from point-blank range from veteran English forward Hooper.

Wellington’s efforts were rewarded in the 24th minute however when Olyroo Reno Piscopo was upended by James Meredith.

Awarded a free-kick initially, replays showed Meredith’s challenge happened inside the box and a VAR overrule led to a penalty which Hooper duly dispatched powerfully past Kurto.

Piscopo’s substitution due to the after-effects of that tackle on his ankle came with a change in momentum in the early part of the second half as the Bulls stepped up their intensity in the attacking third.

After some desperate defending had kept Ante Milicic’s team at bay, Rose found the net when he finished neatly with his right foot from a deep corner, giving Oli Sail in the Phoenix goal no chance.

There was a worrying moment for the Bulls shortly afterwards when Kurto – who missed significant portions of last season with Western United due to concussion issues – took a blow to the face but the Polish goalkeeper played on.

Both teams largely cancelled each other out in the final half hour, although the Phoenix seemed destined to regain the lead in the 80th minute when two players closed in on the ball a yard out from goal with Kurto stranded but Tomislav Uskok’s desperate clearance denied the visitors.

Kurto had one last job to do in the dying minutes when he palmed away David Ball’s shot to make sure of the draw.

“We’ve had a difficult period of late so I thought the boys put in a good performance in difficult circumstances,” Milicic said.

“We go home, so to speak, with something.”

Talay felt a draw was probably a fair result but was upset his team gave up a goal from a set-piece.

“You’d expect them to come out at us in the second half, one-nil down, and we weathered the storm quite well,” he said.

“Disappointed to concede a goal through a set-piece like that and then we had a couple of opportunities at the back-end to possibly win it.

“At the end of day I think a draw was a fair result.”

Macarthur face Sydney FC next weekend while Wellington will host Western Sydney at their temporary Wollongong base.