FOOTBALL: The glum look on Josep Gombau's face at the end said it all, as his Wanderers side slipped to another loss.
A 3-1 loss to Perth Glory on Sunday meant Western Sydney missed a chance to get back in the top six, and left them four games without a win.
An insipid, unconvincing display left Gombau's side picking over another defeat, conceding three times for the second game in a row. The frustration of the players was evident.
Left with an uphill struggle from the fifth minute when the video referee's intervention resulted in the dismissal of Keanu Baccus and the concession of a penalty, the Wanderers rarely looked like they could find a route back into the game.
Even when Oriol Riera's seventh goal of the season earned them parity it was against the run of play, and Glory ran out comfortable winners.
The most damning part of that statement is the fact that Perth headed into the game on the back of five consecutive defeats, yet found the most accommodating of visitors. It was all too easy for Glory.
Gombau continues to talk of the long term and the eventual fruition of his "project", but the longer his team plays without a clear identity, the more the club hierarchy's discomfort will grow.
There is, simply, no obvious belief among the players. From the first substantial attack of the game, when a long ball forward found Joel Chianese galloping clear, there was no solidity to the Wanderers structure.
Chianese went down as Baccus closed in from behind - initially the referee waved play on, but the VAR spotted a slight but damning tug on Chianese's arm. Baccus was sent off, and Diego Castro drove home the penalty.
Western Sydney's equaliser was similarly constructed; another long ball, this time finding Riera striding clear. Liam Reddy in the Perth goal tried for a slide tackle and clipped Riera's heels; the Spaniard got to his feet to score the equaliser from the spot.
Perth were undeterred though, even when Andy Keogh steered a header wide with the goal gaping.
Four minutes before half time Brendon Hamill committed a clumsy foul on Chianese, and Castro bent home a wondrous freekick.
Then, moments later, Perth came again. Neil Kilkenny, on his debt after moving from Melbourne City, was the architect with a deft pass into Castro's stride. With a touch Castro slid the ball sideways and Keogh placed his shot beyond Vedran Janjetovic's dive.
The margin could have widened, with Janjetovic saving from Chris Harold, and almost the only threat from the visitors came when Marcelo Carrusca drove a volley against the post from Josh Rison's speculative cross.
Now though Glory are breathing down Western Sydney's neck, and Gombau's side are in a dogfight just to make the finals. They will need more fight than on show in Perth to have any confidence of winning that battle.
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