Ten-man Bulls spoil Irankunda’s farewell party in shock comeback after second-half send-off

A Nestory Irankunda stunner wasn’t enough for Adelaide United as the Reds threw away a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 to 10-man Macarthur FC at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.

Adelaide led through Irankunda’s latest highlight-reel strike and a second-half red card to Macarthur defender Yianni Nicolau put the hosts in the box seat to take three points – but Ariath Piol and Tommy Smith both struck against the run of play within four minutes to give the away side a shock 2-1 lead.

But there was more drama to come at Coopers Stadium as referee Ben Abraham gave a stoppage-time penalty to the hosts after a VAR check; with first-choice penalty taker Zach Clough no longer on the pitch, Irankunda put penalty-taking duties on his shoulders but was thwarted from the spot by Filip Kurto as the Bulls escaped with all three points.

Irankunda came into Friday night’s clash with the Bulls fresh from scoring a hat-trick against Western United in Round 23, and it took just 20 minutes for the 18-year-old to show another flash of his brilliance when he fired Adelaide into a first-half lead.

The winger collected the ball out wide, sized up Macarthur full-back Ivan Vujica and lashed a low, driven shot into the bottom-left corner from the edge of the box.

“Oh my word – that is what they came to see tonight… goodness me, that is a peach of a hit from Nestory Irankunda!” said commentator Simon Hill as Irankunda wheeled away in celebration.

“It brought both me and (co-commentator) Daniel McBreen out of our seats. What a talent. What a goal!

Irankunda almost made it two on the half-hour mark from a similar spot, albeit closer to goal – but a deflection off the strike, plus the outstretched arm of Macarthur keeper Filip Kurto, denied the teenager a brace.

The Reds finished the first half on the attack and Ethan Alagich was the next young gun to threaten Macarthur’s goal with a shot from distance. The midfielder unleashed and Kurto scrambled as the ball cannoned off the crossbar and out.

Macarthur started brightly in the second half but Adelaide midfielder Isaías posed a threat to the visiting side’s goal with a first-time effort, set up by Irankunda, which Kurto safely gathered.

But the Bulls had a foothold in the game and started to threaten Adelaide’s goal with greater frequency.

Lachie Rose got in behind the Reds’ defence but goalkeeper James Delianov sprawled at his feet to palm the ball away from goal. Jed Drew collected the rebound but couldn’t convert as Nick Ansell headed clear inside the six-yard box.

Stefan Mauk had a close-range shot saved by Kurto and Kearyn Baccus’ open header down the other end received the same treatment from Delianov as the action swung from one end of the pitch to the other.

Soon after came Nicolau’s red card that, at the time, further enhanced Adelaide’s hopes of taking three points from the Bulls.

Referee Abraham used the pitch side monitor to review the incident which initially earned Nicolau a yellow card for making contact with Irankunda’s face with an outstretched arm as the Bulls defender attempted to shield the ball.

Abraham returned to the field of play and upgraded the initial caution to Red as Macarthur went down to 10 men with 15 minutes to play.

Adelaide tried to take instant advantage after the send-off. Irankunda hit the side netting and Luka Jovanovic called Kurto into yet another save as Macarthur held on by their fingertips at Coopers Stadium.

It looked as though there’d be no way back to parity for Macarthur until academy product Piol came off the bench to stun the Coopers Stadium crowd.

Valère Germain provided a deft assist and Piol did the rest, scoring his first A-Leagues goal in just his second game and bringing Macarthur back on level terms.

Just minutes after restoring parity, the 10-man Bulls had a second as Smith launched at the back post to head Daniel De Silva’s cross past Delianov and put his side into a stunning 2-1 lead.

Referee Abraham awarded a late penalty to the home side, finding a handball in the box from Macarthur defender Tomislav Uskok after a VAR review – but Irankunda couldn’t capitalise. His attempt was saved by Kurto and cleared by the Bulls as the final whistle confirmed a stunning win for Mile Sterjovski’s side on the road.