Perth Glory’s inexperienced youngsters fought to the end but were ultimately outclassed 2-0 by Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Friday night.
Injuries, suspension and the departure of Steve Pantelidis have hurt Glory in recent weeks, forcing coach Alistair Edwards to promote many of the club’s young players to the first team.
It paid off last week, when an energetic Glory registered a much-needed home win over Wellington Phoenix.
But with inexperience often comes inconsistency.
Six first-choice players were unavailable through injury last night and Edwards picked eight players aged 22 or under in his starting line-up, including Zambia-born striker Ndumba Makeche for his starting debut.
Victory dominated possession and goals either side of half-time from Adama Traore and Gui Finkler were enough to decide the contest.
Not for the first time this season, Glory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic kept his side in the contest, making several important saves throughout the match.
Late chances to fell to Ryan Edwards and Jamie Maclaren but neither could find an equaliser for Glory before Victory substitute Finkler confirmed the result in the 90th minute.
“We hung in there as long as we could but they were just the better team on the day,” Vukovic said.
“We knew they were going to tire towards the end of the game and that’s when we got most of our chances, but we really need to be making chances early in the game.
“We can’t be chasing games and that just seems to be what we’ve been doing lately.”
Victory controlled the first half and took the lead in the 36th minute through Traore, who made the most of the space afforded to him by the Glory defence to blast a swerving left-foot shot into the top corner.
Vukovic got a hand to the ball but was powerless to stop the stinging strike.
Ryan Edwards wasted one of few clear-cut chances for Glory in the 79th minute when he ballooned a shot over the bar.
Chris Harold pulled the ball back from the byline and it fell to Edwards near the penalty spot, but he could not keep his shot down.
At a corner a minute later, Maclaren controlled an attempted clearance on his chest and whacked a volley towards goal, only to see Victory ‘keeper Nathan Coe pull off a miraculous save.
Finkler sealed all three points for the home side when he beat two Glory defenders, played a neat one-two with James Troisi and slammed the ball home past the helpless Vukovic.
Alistair Edwards was hopeful marquee stars William Gallas (calf) and Shane Smeltz (ankle) would be available for next week’s home clash with struggling Adelaide United, though both are yet to resume full training after suffering injuries last month.