Western United fell to a 3-0 defeat against Sydney FC at Netsrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday night.
An even start to the match was ultimately broken by the home side in the 23rd minute as Milos Ninkovic opened the scoring with a deft volley.
United sought to find a route back into the match but second-half goals from Luciano Narsingh and Mustafa Amini condemned the Green and Black to its fourth defeat of the match.
There was one change to the starting XI for Western United as Connor Pain came back into the side for his first start since United’s last trip to Sydney in early February.
Young midfielder Rhys Bozinovski was on the bench in an A-League Men match for the first time in his career, and joined fellow would-be debutant Noah Botic waiting in the wings for John Aloisi.
United was so nearly off to the perfect start when Aleksandar Prijovic dinked the ball over Andrew Redmayne and into the net, but the Serbian striker was narrowly offside and celebrations were halted.
Prijovic was looking the most threatening for the visitors and almost got on the end of a Lachie Wales cross in the 21st minute as the first quarter of the game failed to produce any meaningful chances for either side.
But almost immediately after that half chance it was Sydney who took the lead through Prijovic’s compatriot. Some nice interplay down Sydney’s right-hand side ended with Ninkovic volleying home from a Rhyan Grant cross.
Sydney were able to dominate possession for the remainder of the half as United struggled to gain a foothold in midfield and move the ball forwards.
Josh Risdon had another half chance after a foray forward resulted in a corner for the Green and Black, but the stand-in skipper couldn’t find the target as United went into the break with plenty of work to do.
United came out of half-time looking to remove the deficit as soon as possible, and Connor Pain popped up inside the Sydney box for an early sighter out of the break, though his effort was defended well and ultimately claimed comfortably by Redmayne.
United’s press was much more effective early on as a string of turnovers high up the pitch brought about the best chance to equalise, with Redmayne pulling off a great save to deny Prijovic’s glancing header.
The extra impetus going forward for the Green and Black was always going to open up opportunities for Sydney on the counter-attack, and the Sky Blues took advantage of one such opportunity just before the hour mark.
Narsingh had been a thorn in the side of United’s defence for most of the contest and lifted a delicate chip over Jamie Young to finish a swift and clinical Sydney breakaway.
The home side put the game to bed not too long after when Jerry Skotadis stumbled on the ball at the top of his own box, allowing Amini to slot into the bottom corner.
There was a nice moment for United in the final minutes as Botic entered the fray to make his debut in the A-League Men.
The loss brought an end to United’s club-record nine-match unbeaten run, and the Green and Black will have an opportunity to bounce back immediately against Melbourne Victory on Wednesday.