VAR drama as Sydney sink Macarthur in ALM finals

George Clarke |

Englishman Joe Lolley scores a belter in Sydney FC’s big ALM finals win over Macarthur FC.
Englishman Joe Lolley scores a belter in Sydney FC’s big ALM finals win over Macarthur FC.

Sydney FC are through to the A-League Men semi-finals after claiming a 4-0 win over Macarthur FC, who fell victim to of one of the most debatable refereeing decisions of the season.

An eighth-minute strike from Robert Mak set the hosts on their way on Saturday night before a second-half curler from Joe Lolley, who felt his hamstring go in the act of scoring, put the game beyond the Bulls’ reach.

Jaiden Kucharski grabbed Sydney’s third in the 67th minute before Mak added his second to wrap up the win for Ufuk Talay’s men.

The Sky Blues will face Central Coast or Wellington across a two-legged semi-final, depending on the result of Sunday’s elimination final between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City.

As well as concerns over Lolley, captain Luke Brattan trudged off in the final five minutes with a suspected ankle injury.

“Joe felt his hammy go on that extraordinary goal he scored and ‘Bratts’, he gets a lot of knocks and always continues so he must be hurt,” Talay said. 

Sydney were dominant but they were also fortunate to profit from some questionable officiating at Allianz Stadium.

Bulls right-back Kealey Adamson was shown a straight red card by referee Alireza Faghani in the 27th minute.

Adamson collided with Sydney’s Jordan Courtney-Perkins as the pair competed for a ball in behind the Macarthur defence which was travelling away from goal.

Both players also had their backs to goal and as he was glanced by Adamson, Courtney-Perkins fell to ground.

Faghani blew for a penalty and issued Adamson a yellow card before going to check on VAR to determine if the first contact had come in or outside the Bulls’ box.

Kealey Adamson (3rd right) gets his red card. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

After completing his review, Faghani attempted to use live VAR – where officials explain their decision over a public announcement system – for the first time.

But his justification was barely audible inside the venue and Macarthur players were stunned to learn he had decided to show Adamson a straight red.

Football Australia said it was the correct call because Courtney-Perkins had been denied a clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity.

FA’s explanation was met with short shrift from Sydney legend Alex Brosque and 80-cap Socceroo Luke Wilkshire on Network Ten’s commentary and Macarthur boss Mile Sterjovski said: “When I first saw it, I didn’t (even) think it was a foul but I haven’t seen a replay so I can’t comment.

“I wouldn’t say it was a clear opportunity, but again I’d have to see a replay.

“It knocked us a bit, I think in other games we would have been able to come back but Sydney were too dominant today.”

Both Network Ten experts claimed the decision lacked a feel for a game while Talay has more than once this season been left seething with FA’s officials. 

It took the shine off one of Sydney’s most impressive performances of the year which was bookended by goals from Mak.

Robert Mak.
Robert Mak slotted home twice past Bulls goalkeeper Filip Kurto. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“I was disappointed in our attitude and mentality when they went down to 10 men,” Talay said.

“But in the second half, the attitude was great and we got some really nice goals.” 

Lolley notched his beautiful goal in the 50th minute to make it 2-0 before limping off for treatment, with Kucharski and Mak finishing the rout to kill off any hope of a Macarthur comeback.