Perth Glory interim coach Ruben Zadkovich had a heartbreaking A-League debut as the side went down 2-1 to a last-gasp winner against Wellington Phoenix at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.
Embattled Glory fought back from a goal down and battled with 10 men for most of the second half after Osama Malik was controversially sent off, receiving a second yellow card when Ben Waine went down with seemingly little contact.
New Zealand international Waine had opened the scoring after 37 minutes, his terrific finish putting the ball over goalkeeper Liam Reddy who was caught in no man’s land.
Nick Fitzgerald equalised with his first Glory goal on 49 minutes after good work from Josh Anasmo on his starting debut and Adrian Sardinero.
But three minutes later the complexion of the game changed when Malik received his marching orders.
Even then Wellington struggled to break down Glory’s resolute defence and it was not until the last kick of the game, seven minutes into time added-on, that Nicholas Pennington rifled home the winner.
Zadkovich said it was a “slap in the face”.
“But I’ll wear that and I’ll move on. I’ve got a thick skin,” he said.
“It’s frustrating and gutting for the boys.”
Zadkovich conceded the side was “flat” in the first-half but upped their energy after the break.
“Their shift in effort and mentality was my first port of call,” he said.
“Their understanding is lacking a little bit at the moment. There’s a difference between what I want in my philosophy and what we’ve got. Players have been signed to play one style and I’ve a different picture in my head. These things are going to take time.
“The first half was a little bit flat and that’s a snapshot of where they are.
“The red card was a little bit deflating. I haven’t seen the replay but I thought it was a clash of heels more than anything.”
Zadkovich admitted he was concerned about some players’ fitness.
“Midweek, a 6km session they should have been able to complete easily and struggled,” he said.
“That highlighted where they are at physically.”
Wellington stretched Glory in the first period but despite their stranglehold with overwhelming possession and territory were unable to create any real chances.
Gael Sandoval headed high and a David Ball shot was easily dealt with by Reddy but he was left stranded by Waine for the opening goal.
Glory were back in the game with Fitzgerald’s equaliser before Malik was sent-off.
Reddy produced one of the saves of the season, diving full stretch to fingertip a cracking Sam Sutton shot onto the post while at the other end Callum Timmins sent his shot harmlessly past the post before the last-gasp winner.