Melbourne City FC commenced 2015 with a disappointing 2-0 loss against Central Coast Mariners at Central Coast Stadium in Round 13 of the Hyundai A-League.
An early double to Mitchell Duke and a pair of outstanding saves from Mariners 'keeper Liam Reddy thwarted City's attempts at a fifth match unbeaten on Sunday afternoon.
Duke struck the opener in the 12th minute, before adding a second in the 27th to give the Mariners all three points.
City's afternoon was to go from bad to worse as 'keeper Tando Velaphi was dismissed after colliding with Duke in the second half, as Melbourne's attempts to work its way into the match became more challenging.
Melbourne City are currently in 6th position on the A-League ladder on 16 points after 13 matches, three points adrift of Sydney FC, and will remain there until the Club recommences its campaign on February 1 with a home match against Western Sydney Wanderers.
After a commanding display against the Newcastle Jets in the side's last match of 2014, Head Coach John van't Schip was forced into two changes with Jacob Melling out through suspension (five yellow cards accumulated) and Connor Chapman rested after hamstring soreness.
The changes looked to unsettle the side which had won three of its past four matches and drew with leaders Perth Glory, and conceded two sloppy goals in the first 27 minutes.
Duke profited from a neat through-ball from Glen Trifiro in the 12th minute, jinking past central defenders Patrick Kisnorbo and Archibald and the striker finished well past Velaphi for the home side.
Despite dominating possession, City looked sluggish in defence from the start, and Duke punished van't Schip's side further in the 27th minute.
City failed to clear the ball and as Archibald and Erik Paartalu tangled with Richard Vernes, but the efforts in stopping the Hungarian were tame and Vernes dug the ball out to Duke.
Duke, striking the ball with a first-time shot, powered his effort toward goal superbly, giving Velaphi no chance, doubling the Mariners' lead.
Melbourne looked to force its way back into the match and had two excellent chances to do so before the half-time break, but Reddy pulled out two sensational stops to prevent Koren and Aaron Mooy.
Koren's chance fell after neat build-up through the centre of the park and a lay-off from Mooy, but the Slovenian's curling shot - which looked destined for the top corner - was scopped out by Reddy's fingertips.
Another chance fell to Koren in the 41st minute, with the marquee swiveling on the penalty spot, only to strike his quick-fire effort over Reddy's bar.
Mooy forced Reddy's best save of the afternoon a minute before the break, tipping a point-blank header from the Melbourne City midfielder onto the bar and out for a corner.
With Duke's double and Reddy's timely saves, Mariners entered the break with a two goal lead and plenty of confidence.
The ascendancy would remain with the home side, with Velaphi receiving a red card in the 59th minute and van't Schip's team were forced to play out the final 30 minutes with 10 men.
Koren, an outlet of creativity for the first hour, was the player sacrificed for Andrew Redmayne to enter the field in between the posts, but with the Slovenian having played limited match time during the season it was a sensible decision.
Redmayne was called shortly after his introduction and produced a fine save, tipping a long-range Eddy Bosnar free-kick over the cross bar at full stretch.
But it was the 'keeper up the other end, Reddy, who again thwarted Melbourne City's efforts, as Paartalu's header from a set-piece was blocked by the Mariners 'keeper.
Further chances fell to both sides, but Melbourne City could not cut the deficit, nor could the Mariners extend its lead and the match finished 2-0 to the home side.
Hyundai A-League Round 13
Sunday, 4 January 2014
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Mitchell DUKE 12', 27')
Melbourne City FC 0