Western United suffered late heartbreak in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men, going down 1-0 to Macarthur FC at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday evening.
It was a tight tussle with chances at both ends and strong tackles throughout, but Macarthur were able to take their final opportunity and claim the win deep into stoppage time.
Despite the result, there were plenty of positives for Western United to take into a first home match next weekend against Newcastle Jets.
John Aloisi made two changes to his starting XI, both enforced as Jacob Tratt missed out with a hamstring injury and Daniel Penha dropped to the bench to manage some muscle soreness.
That saw Kane Vidmar come into the line-up for his first ever senior professional start, while former Macarthur man Michael Ruhs was a starter in the Isuzu UTE A-League for the first time as a Western United player.
Socceroos striker Nikita Rukavytsya made the teamsheet for the first time and took up a spot on the bench alongside Penha.
United started brightly in the contest with Ruhs finding space in behind Macarthur’s defence and winning an early corner.
The No.9 was involved again when he played a sharp one-two with Ben Garuccio, allowing the left-back to sting the palms of Filip Kurto with a powerful drive.
Macarthur carried a threat with the ball and Raphael Borges Rodrigues couldn’t believe he didn’t give his side the lead in the 18th minute.
After the hosts broke free on the counter-attack, Borges Rodrigues needed only to tap home unchallenged at the back post but Tom Heward-Belle had other ideas, flinging himself across the goal line and making a stunning pinpoint save.
Returning to a wide-right position in Penha’s absence, Lachie Wales was lively and nearly teed up Noah Botic for the opener but Jonathan Aspropotamitis was in the way of the youngster’s side-footed volley.
There were plenty of fouls through the middle third of the pitch as both teams looked to press quickly and win the ball back.
Heward-Belle was called into action again to deny Yianni Nicolau just before half-time, ensuring the deadlock remained unbroken at the break.
Penha came off the bench for United at half-time and immediately began to connect with his teammates, looking to create chances and link up with Wales and Botic up front.
United had more joy going forward in the second half than it did in the first but that came largely without any meaningful chances on goal.
The closest the Green and Black came was when Josh Risdon nearly bent a beauty into the top corner, cutting inside onto his left foot and drawing a magnificent save from Kurto.
Ulises Davila came on for Macarthur and nearly found a goal within minutes of his arrival, sending a deflected shot bobbling just wide of the right-hand post.
Heading into the final 10 minutes, Western United seemed to find a second wind and looked to increase the pressure with the closest chance of the game.
Working the ball neatly down the left-hand side, substitute Ramy Najjarine stood up a looping cross towards the back post and Risdon came storming onto it, leaping and heading the ball onto the post and out for a goal kick.
Najjarine saw plenty of the ball down the left and put another pinpoint delivery into the box for fellow substitute Rukavytsya, and the No.13 came agonisingly close to a debut goal as his header flashed wide of the goal.
Despite bringing most of the late-game impetus, United was made to rue missed opportunities as Auglah stole the three points at the death, rounding Heward-Belle and slotting into an empty net.