Wellington Phoenix's early season struggles have continued with a disappointing 2-0 loss to Central Coast Mariners.
The Phoenix were on the back foot early, after English striker David Ball was sent off in the 27th minute for a poor challenge on Mariners forward Matt Simon.
The away side capitalised with a goal to Simon and penalty to Oliver Bozanic at the temporary Phoenix home at WIN Stadium, Wollongong.
The New Zealanders came into the contest without key players Tomer Hemed, Cameron Devlin and Jaushua Sotirio, and added to their awful afternoon, with Ball banished and defenders Luke Devere and Josh Laws limping off.
The home side made a bright start to the encounter as they had in previous matches, but continued their struggles in front of goal.
The turning point in the contest came in the 27th minute, when Ball leapt two-footed into a challenge and collected Simon. Referee Daniel Alder wasted no time in showing a red card to the English forward.
The Mariners only need 12 minutes to make the extra man count, with Simon smashing the ball past Stefan Marinovic, after a delightful pass from Marcos Urena.
The Phoenix had a bright spell after falling behind, but couldn't get the killer blow to level the scores before the break.
The visitors only need four minutes after the break to double their lead, when Te Atwhai Hudson-Wihongi clumsily brought Daniel De Silva down in the area and Bozanic slotted from the spot.
From there on, the Phoenix never looked like getting back into the contest and Marinovic prevented further humiliation by pulling off a brilliant save to deny Simon.
Substitute Mirza Muratovic fluffed his side's best chance by spraying his shot closer to the corner flag, when one-on-one with Mariners keeper Mark Birighitti.
Substitute Ruan Tongyik should have made it 3-0 in the 90th minute, but the Mariners centre-back was unable to find the target from close range.
The Mariners leap back to the top of the table, after handing the Phoenix their fourth defeat in six games.
Wellington were scheduled to play Melbourne Victory on Wednesday, but due to the five-day lockdown in Victoria, this game has been rescheduled.
The Phoenix are next in action against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday.