Western United fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat against Perth Glory at Macedonia Park in Round 7 of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men on Sunday night.
The home side took the lead after a quarter of an hour when Ryan Williams looped a cross over Jamie Young’s head and into the net.
The lead was doubled just after half-time when Jack Clisby bent a fine effort into the top corner, but Neil Kilkenny’s first Western United goal gave the visitors a lifeline inside the final 10 minutes.
Noah Botic came off the bench and hit the post when it seemed the ball was destined to go in, and Leo Lacroix received a late red card to add to a difficult evening for the Green and Black.
There were two changes to the starting XI from the win over Wellington Phoenix little under a month ago, with Ben Garuccio dropping out of the side due to illness and Nikolai Topor-Stanley returning from suspension.
John Aloisi welcomed Aleksandar Prijovic into the line-up for his first start of the season, while Tongo Doumbia returned to the bench for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury in Round 2.
Perth applied much of the early pressure with intent to get forward straight away, winning a couple of corners within a minute of kick-off.
United defended well for the most part and a couple of neat passages of play going forward, but the hosts’ early pressure paid off with the opening goal after 15 minutes.
A long ball sent Williams chasing down the right-hand side and the winger’s cross looped inadvertently over Young and into the far side of the net.
Aloisi’s men began to see more possession but struggled largely for consistent looks at goal as Perth’s defence remained resolute.
The visitors created the best chance to equalise just before the break after a sweeping counter attack saw the ball land at the feet of Jacob Tratt’s feet on the right wing, but Lachie Wales couldn’t get a clean connection on the ensuing cross as he glanced the ball wide of the left-hand post.
United needed a sharp start to the second half but it was the home side that found an early goal after the restart as Clisby sent a lovely curling strike into the top right corner in the 52nd minute.
Aloisi made a triple change on the hour mark that gave United an added spark in attack with Dylan Pierias and Nicolas Milanovic joining on either flank and Doumbia providing energy in midfield.
The changes helped United keep Perth pinned back in defence for longer spells but the home side boasted a strong threat on the counter attack and Williams nearly found a second in the 74th minute as his chip clipped the top of the net as it just looped over the crossbar.
United kept pushing and had a route back into the match in the 83rd minute when Kilkenny’s wide free-kick evaded everyone in the box and crept into the far corner for the midfielder’s first goal for the Club.
That gave the visitors momentum to push on and find an equaliser and it so nearly came from substitute Botic as he rose to thump a header towards goal, but the ball somehow didn’t go in as it rebounded off the post and onto Liam Reddy on the goal line before being smuggled away.
A difficult evening was compounded when Lacroix was shown a straight red card just before the final whistle as United fell short of rescuing a point.