Captain Jacob Burns was controversially sent off in the dying stages as Perth Glory suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to reigning champions Central Coast at Bluetongue Stadium on Tuesday night.
Scores were locked at 1-1 in injury time when Burns was dealt his second yellow card of the night, this time for dissent, before Michael McGlinchey sealed the Mariners’ win with a 96th minute strike.
Burns was first booked in the 89th minute for denying the Mariners the chance to take a quick free kick and suffered a cut head from a clash with Mile Sterjovski in the same passage of play.
Burns was sent from the field to have his head bandaged and came back on, only to be forced to the sidelines again to change his bloodied shirt.
He was waiting to be allowed back onto the field for the second time when officials took offence to his backchat and sent him to the stands.
Down to 10 men, Glory couldn’t hold on in the final few minutes as McGlinchey pounced on a loose ball to fire the winner from close range.
The result left Glory five points out of the top six with just one win in their past eight matches.
Veteran midfielder Steven McGarry thought he had snatched a share of the spoils for Glory when he scored an equaliser from the penalty spot in the 84th minute.
McGarry said Burns’ sending-off was no excuse for Glory conceding the late goal that cost them a point.
“You’ve got to rally, you’ve got to battle, and to take a point at that stage of the game would’ve been brilliant,” McGarry said.
“We were probably a bit naïve. As soon as Burnsy got sent off, we’ve got to be better structured and get everybody behind the ball and just grind out that point.
“We needed to get into shape as a team to defend those last few minutes.
“What could’ve been a really good point on the road has turned out to be another hard-luck story.”
Missing six first-team players through injury, Glory fielded a starting line-up which featured six players aged 21 or under and their inexperience showed as Central Coast created the better chances.
A goal from WA product Trent Sainsbury gave the Mariners the lead in the 12th minute after some sloppy defensive work by Glory, who failed to clear from a corner and paid the ultimate price.
Daniel De Silva’s goalline clearance was sent back into the box and the ball fell for Sainsbury to poke home from 10m.
It was first goal of the former Glory youth team player’s 56-game A-League career.
Sainsbury had been superb at centre-back throughout the match but was forced off with a left hamstring injury in the 65th minute.
Glory were handed a lifeline when Central Coast defender Marcel Reip brought down Chris Harold from behind in the penalty area.
McGarry sent his powerful spot kick into the top right corner of the net.
But he was denied the headlines in his 100th A-League appearance when McGlinchey struck in what will be his second-last game for the Mariners before joining Japanese club Vegalta Sendai.
Burns will be suspended for Glory’s next match, away to Newcastle Jets on Saturday.