The hosts bravely withstood an early onslaught from the visiting side and registered their first goal against the run of play in the 18th minute, after Steve Martin buried the ball past Richmond goalkeeper Stuart Webster with an expertly-taken free kick from just outside the 18-yard box.

New recruit Ryan O’Hare added a second in the 41st minute, finishing off a fine low cross from striker Jerry Karpeh, whose intelligent hold-up play dragged Webster off his line, allowing O’Hare to tap in from close range.

The visitors had started well enough and should have gone ahead after just 25 seconds when Richie Cardozo’s right-wing cross found Pablo Cardozo unmarked at the far post, but the latter narrowly missed his attempted header.

They were quick to pounce again just moments later after a Zebras defensive error allowed Richie Cardozo to shoot from the edge of the area, but his powerful shot struck the upright.

Richmond were by far the better side in the first quarter hour, but Whittlesea’s goal against the run of play sparked a small revival.

The Eagles were struggling to contain their hosts’ momentum, and any hope of them hauling themselves back into the game faded in the 26th minute after Antun Kovacic was sent off following a studs-up challenge on the Zebras’ Sebastian Petrovic.

Kovacic was initially cautioned for the challenge, but he was soon given his marching orders after lashing out at Martin, who had come in to remonstrate about the tackle on his team-mate.

The pressure of being a man down soon began to show as Richmond struggled to contain the Whittlesea onslaught.

The Zebras hit the upright twice in succession after a sustained attack on the Richmond goal, leaving the home fans wondering whether their early season’s fortunes would change at all.

But it was then that O’Hare struck.

The goal came after Whittlesea had treated its fans to some exciting football, with Goran Talevski and Jerry Karpeh combining well up front, and Greg Lombardo bringing the crowd to its feet in the 40th minute with a powerful 30 yard drive that forced Webster to produce a fine diving save.

Richmond set out with renewed vigour in the second half, and youngster Jesse Krncevic thought he had pulled one back for the visitors in the 51st minute after receiving a through ball from Michael Catalano, but he was called for offside, much to the relief of the home support.

Defender Aaron Lines then tried his luck from distance but his effort went just inches wide.

The Eagles eventually pulled one back in the 64th minute through Richie Cardozo, who fired in from close range after Krncevic nodded the ball on from the edge of the 6-yard box.

They almost drew level in the 71st minute after Lines again fired from distance, but his long-range effort went narrowly wide once more.

The visitors continued to push for the elusive equaliser, with Semir Sivic making a darting run down the right wing, only to fire his cross directly into the waiting arms of Zebras ‘keeper Robert Simeoni.

They broke quickly and celebrated as substitute Simon Lamanda finished a fine move from Lombardo in the 85th minute, only for the goal to be controversially ruled out for offside.

Simeoni then capped off a man-of-the-match performance in his first start for the season, denying Richmond time and again with a number of spectacular saves in the dying minutes of the match.