Macarthur have lived up to their pre-match expectations, claiming the first western Sydney bragging rights in a 1-0 A-League win over the Wanderers.

Touted as premiership hopefuls in their inaugural campaign thanks to some exceptional recruiting, the Bulls largely met the hype but still had to do it the hard way on Wednesday.

It took a Mark Milligan deflection from Spaniard Benat Etxebarria's free kick in the 72nd minute to secure the result in front of a COVID-reduced crowd of 10,128 at Bankwest Stadium.

It was a match of contrasting fortunes: the Bulls having the better of general play; the wanderers with the best chances on goal.

Bulls' keeper Adam Federici was the night's hero, the former Reading custodian peeling off four quality saves including an off-hand deflection from a Keanu Baccus thunderbolt in the 54th minute.

"At the start of the second half there was a 15-minute period where they had a bit of set-piece pressure and I thought Fedders was outstanding, and he has been like that since day one," inaugural Bulls coach Ante Milicic said of the 35-year-old shot stopper.

"He was the second player that I contacted once I got the job ... he's still hungry, he still wants to play, he wants to win."

The visitors dominated early play but when Aleksandar Jovanovic couldn't dodge a Graham Dorrans bullet in the 12th minute, it looked like the Wanderers would go 1-0 up.

Initially awarded a penalty when referee Kurt Ams pointed to the spot, the decision and Jovanovic's yellow card were rescinded when it was determined contact with the defender's arm was incidental.

Moudi Najjar headed high in the 25th minute for Macarthur but many of the half's best chances fell to the Wanderers, Simon Cox and Bernie Ibini both missing applies-edged shots just before the break.

Play opened up in the second period with Australian Schoolboy Lachlan Rose continuing to impress on debut in a quality Bulls midfield.

The 21-year-old thought he'd added a maiden goal along with his cap in the 51st minute but was quickly and correctly ruled offside.

The Wanderers continued to press but Etxebarria's introduction midway through the second half gave the Bulls some more options and he was unlucky not to score just before his deciding free kick.

Federici fittingly had the last word with another wonderful save from sub Kwame Yeboah in time added on.

New Wanderers coach Carl Robinson was pleased with his side's first-up effort - if not the result.

"The fight to the end was encouraging; sometimes you don't get what you deserve in football," he said.

"I think it was a fairly tight game and the difference was one ricochet off a free kick."