Buhagiar shines in gloomy affair as Sydney and United share spoils

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Trent Buhagiar has bounced back from a recent dip in form in spectacular fashion as Sydney FC and Western United cancelled each other out in the rain on Saturday night.

The 23-year-old was a shining light in horrendous Sydney conditions as the Sky Blues shared spoils with United, as late drama nearly shifted the 1-1 scoreline.

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An excellent ball down the line from Buhagiar inside the opening two minutes appeared to send Elvis Kamsoba on his merry way, before the resulting cross fell short of the penalty area and was easily cleared by Joshua Risdon.

A clumsy pass from Milos Ninkovic at the halfway line sent United on the counter attack during the next play, with an ambitious bicycle attempt from Aleksandar Prijovic sent down the throat of Tom Heward-Belle.

A penalty shout for Sydney in the 20th minute saw a manhandled Buhagiar keep his footing, before the resulting cross found Adam Le Fondre in his return to the Sky Blues starting lineup, but the Englishman pulled the back-heeling shot just wide of Jamie Young’s goal.

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As the rain began to pelt down over Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Adam Le Fondre cleverly dispossessed United centre-back Leo Lacroix, before his threatening run and shot from a difficult angle was blocked and the follow-up attempt was skied much to the relief of Young.

Just before chances dried for both teams on the cusp of half-time, Buhagiar’s pass along the floor to Ninkovic saw the Serbian’s attempt on goal smashed against the palm of Young and deflecting off the upright, leaving both sides scoreless as they headed into the sheds.

The opening few minutes of the second half, much like the final minutes before the half-time break, saw little in the way opportunity on goal as both sides braced themselves for the torrential rain to continue long into the night.

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But United managed to brave the treacherous conditions as a run from Connor Pain down the left wing and his subsequent pass found teammate Prijovic, flicking it onto a poised Steven Lustica who buried the opportunity from outside the box.

The Sky Blues watched on in confusion as referee Shaun Evans went upstairs to check an offside call, but the goal stood meaning that the Victorians had broken the deadlock in Sydney.

A determined Sky Blues, however, responded instantly, as Ninkovic broke his way through a sea of United defenders to find midfielder Max Burgess, who claimed the equaliser against his former club with a tidy finish from close range.

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As United looked to reclaim their lead, an excellent Diamanti corner found his defender Risdon at the back post, whose header was smashed against the palm of Heward-Belle as the 24-year-old pulled off yet another miraculous save.

But the Sky Blues once again had plenty of answers to United’s attack, as Ninkovic’s curling effort from outside the box was met with a diving one-handed stop from Young, as just minutes remained on the clock at Jubilee.

In a dramatic turn of events, a Risdon cross floated into the box with seconds remaining and found Lachie Wales, whose header appeared to have met the arm of Rhyan Grant as the penalty was initially given. Evans, however, overturned his original on-field decision as Sydney fans breathed a sigh of relief.

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The draw helped United reclaim the top spot after Melbourne City’s emphatic win from the night before, as Sydney creep back up to third position to obtain a 4-4-4 season record.

Sydney FC: 1 (Burgess 64′)

Western United: 1 (Lustica 56′)

Stadium: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

Referee: Shaun Evans

Assistant Referees: George Lakrindis, Owen Lakrindis

Fourth Official: Sam Kelly

Sydney FC: Tom HEWARD-BELLE (GK), James DONACHIE, Alexander WILKINSON, Connor O’TOOLE, Paulo RETRE, Milos NINKOVIC, Trent BUHAGIAR (Callum TALBOT 83′), Adam LE FONDRE (BOBO 62′), Max BURGESS, Rhyan GRANT, Elvis KAMSOBA

Unused Subs: Andrew REDMAYNE, Ben WARLAND, Corey HOLLMAN, Adrian SEGECIC, Patrick WOOD

Western United: Jamie YOUNG, Leo LACROIX, Tomoki IMAI, Lachlan WALES (Dylan PIERIAS 70′), Steven LUSTICA, Connor PAIN, Ben GARUCCIO, Joshua RISDON, Alessandro DIAMANTI, Neil KILKENNY, Aleksandar PRIJOVIC (Dylan WENZEL-HALLS 83′)

Unused Subs: Ryan SCOTT, Rene KRHIN, Nicolas MILANOVIC, Christian THEOHAROUS, Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY

Featured image credit: Jaime Castaneda

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Jimmy Alexander
Jimmy Alexander
Covering Sydney FC for the 2021/22 A-League season. Studying a Bachelor of Sports Media (Journalism) at Charles Sturt University.

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