Melbourne Heart’s winless run extended to a record-equalling 19th game after the A-League strugglers slumped to a 3-0 loss to Perth Glory in Friday night’s clash at nib Stadium.
The Heart created a series of golden chances but couldn’t put the finishing touch on their work, with a second-half brace to substitute striker Shane Smeltz putting the visitors to the sword.
Smeltz, in his first game back from an ankle injury, scored in the 86th and 89th minute after Heart striker Dylan Macallister was sent off in the 81st.
Adrian Zahra also scored for the Glory, whose second win on the trot moved them to fifth on the table, one point behind the third-placed Victory.
Heart’s winless run matches the A-League record set by the now-defunct New Zealand Knights between 2005-06.
Should they fail to beat Newcastle at AAMI Park next Friday, the Heart will take sole ownership of the unwanted record.
Smeltz had missed the previous five games due to an ankle injury, but the New Zealand international made up for lost time following his 74th-minute introduction.
Former Heart midfielder Zahra gave Perth the edge in the 64th minute when he skipped past two defenders before unleashing a curling strike from the edge of the box.
But it was Smeltz who delivered the killer blow, making the most of a one-on-one chance against Heart goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne for his first, before pouncing on a poor Redmayne clearance for his second goal.
Macallister, on the return from a hamstring injury, replaced Harry Kewell in the 70th minute.
But tackles on Sidnei and Jack Clisby within the space of 11 minutes resulted in his marching orders.
Heart captain Harry Kewell suffered a brain fade in the 43rd minute when he stuck up his hand to block a throw from Glory goalkeeper Vukovic.
Kewell earned a yellow card for that incident, with the 9,045 crowd booing the former Socceroo.
The veteran was lucky not to be red carded after attempting to re-enter the field in the 58th minute before he had been given permission by the fourth official.
Heart coach John van’t Schip felt Macallister was hard done by.
“It’s letting the team a little bit down, but maybe they were two heavily charged yellow cards,” van’t Schip said.
“If you look at Harry Kewell, he got kicked two times from behind by the same player who’s not even getting a yellow.
“I think there’s a little bit of difference in refereeing.
“Then the second goal in my opinion was a clear foul on Patrick Gerhardt. So those things are not helping us.”
Glory interim coach Kenny Lowe praised his team’s fighting spirit.
“Obviously the sending off changed the context of the game. But at the end of the day, you’ve still got to win the game,” Lowe said.
“I thought our work ethic, our endeavour, our desire to win the second ball was really good.
“The young kids are just amazing.”