Western Sydney Wanderers are unhappy at what they perceived was inconsistent refereeing during their 3-1 loss to Perth Glory on Sunday, in which Keanu Baccus was sent off for a foul similar to one committed by a Perth Glory player who received only a yellow card.
While midfielder Baccus was given his marching orders on the advice of the video assistant referee for hauling down Joel Chianese when clean through on goal in the sixth minute, the Wanderers felt Glory goalkeeper Liam Reddy should also have received a red card.
Reddy conceded a penalty after fouling Western Sydney's Oriol Riera in a one-on-one situation, denying the Spaniard a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
The Wanderers were awarded a spot-kick - converted successfully by Riera - while Reddy was shown a yellow card.
"The referee explained to me it wasn't a football challenge, which is why he gave [Baccus] a red card," said Wanderers defender Brendan Hamill. "They looked on the VAR and obviously the rule was changed.
"We got the double punishment when we got the exact same thing with us with Reddy and a yellow card for what was deemed a football challenge. Unfortunately we had to play 85 minutes with a man down and it makes it tough. We can't change it, we have to deal with it."
Western Sydney coach Josep Gombau bemoaned the greater leniency shown towards goalkeepers by officials.
"That is the rule, the goalkeeper has a protection that if it's outside the area it's a yellow card, but the action is the same. But these are the rules," Gombau said. "Penalty and a yellow doesn't change a game like penalty and a red card."
While the application of the rules may have had a harsh outcome for the Wanderers, their lacklustre defending and poor first half was another sign of their teething problems in the transition towards a new style of football.
Despite having played 12 games under the tenure of new coach Gombau, Hamill says the inconsistent performances and hesitation while defending were largely caused by their shift towards a more attacking mindset.
"A hundred percent. I think Josep has made that very public and the way that he was at Adelaide. But everyone is trying and it's been long enough now for everyone to be getting used to those changes," Hamill said.
"We just have to look forward to these last 10 games to cement ourselves in the top six. There's been a lot of changes going on but we've been going long enough now that everyone knows their role and we've just been very inconsistent and that's something we need to fix."
The Wanderers fell outside of the finals spot after their loss to the Glory but have 10 more matches to salvage their season, including a make-up match against Wellington Phoenix. They returned to Sydney on Monday night and will resume training later in the week before facing Central Coast Mariners in Gosford on Sunday afternoon, a match already shaping up as a must-win for both sides, which are losing touch with the top six.
"There's still everything to play for. There's still 30 points up for grabs. Our main goal in the second half was to be more compact and not let them score again. That's a positive we can draw from that. There's still 10 games and we can still definitely make that. That's what we're looking forward to and the steps we look to," Hamill said.