Marco Rossi was sent off in the Wellington Phoenix's first pre-season hit out ahead of their 2017/18 A-League campaign.
The Italian defender was given his marching orders late in the first half of last night's 0-0 draw with Central League leaders Western Suburbs for stamping on an opponent.
The Phoenix were already without captain Andrew Durante as he recovers from minor stomach surgery, forcing Croatian midfielder Goran Paracki into an unfamiliar central defensive role in his first game for his new club.
Coach Darije Kalezic had no problem with Rossi's dismissal.
"It was a red card," he said afterwards.
"Marco is a player who got three months off between seasons. You see what the result is of three months off. Some players get four days off and some players get three months off. If you come from three months holiday to play a game after one week, that's probably the most realistic result you get."
Western Suburbs provided stiff opposition for the Phoenix, enjoying the majority of possession without ever really threatening to score. With the chance to win the Central League on Sunday and a Chatham Cup quarter-final looming, coach Declan Edge changed his entire team at half-time.
Meantime, Kalezic was happy with the organisation of his side, particularly when they were outnumbered after Rossi's expulsion.
"Our organisation [out of] possession - I think the boys did very well all game. We kept a clean sheet and didn't give a chance away. We've put most attention on that part of the game up to now, so compliments to the guys for those moments of the game," he said.
The Phoenix's inability to trouble their lower-ranked opponents at the attacking end will be a concern for Kalezic though. A second-half shout for a penalty was waved away and while Fijian striker Roy Krishna was typically energetic, particularly in the first half, there were few chances of note, even when Wests rolled out their reserves after the break.
"In the first half we created three or four good chances, so it's always disappointing if you don't [score] goals," said Kalezic.
"With one goal, we're going to break the game open and the opponent has to react differently. But the players did what they had to do and it's bad luck we didn't [score] a goal. We have to do better in front of goal, that's clear."
After a nervous start, Paracki impressed on his debut, as did another new arrival Scott Galloway at right-back. Further forward, teenager Sarpreet Singh showed some nice touches in an advanced midfield role.
"These kinds of games, normally, we have to win easily," said Kalezic.
"But because of all the things that are happening in this moment in the team - injuries, the small squad, players who come late from their holidays - all of that stuff has an influence on the result. But we have trained a lot on organisation up till now and that was the priority for me to see tonight in the game and I saw that, so we can be satisfied about that."
"Other things we have to develop in the next training sessions in front of us," he said.
The Phoenix next play fellow A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers in the FFA Cup on Tuesday evening at Campbelltown Stadium.