Visiting Perth Glory Bernd Stange was disappointed by the state of the Knights Stadium pitch in his first trip to Melbourne this season, but sanguine about the 1-1 draw, despite coming into the match red-hot favourites after demolishing Carlton 3-0 last week.
"We are very happy we are in top six at this moment. It is a great success for Perth, for the marketing, for 17,000 crowd, and that's why it's not so important that we have a draw here, or we lose in Newcastle. For us, it's important that we go our way, and that we come into Grand Final. This team is not able to hold top position over the season - we are not strong enough against the teams from the eastern states. They have youth teams, they have reserve teams - we have nothing in Perth."
The draw looked unlikely, as - despite a third minute shock when Gareth Naven and Con Boutsianis combined only to be thwarted at the last by a diving save at the feet of Boutsianis by Joe Didulica - Knights had the better moments, and faced only ten men for the last twenty playing minutes following Garcia's dismissal for his second yellow card offence in the 74th minute.
Soccer Australia will perhaps quietly approve of the send-off of the Olyroo, as it saves them at least one return airfare. Garcia will be able to remain in Victoria during the Olyroos' January double match-up against South Korea on the 15th at Gippsland Falcons' Mobil Park and the 22nd at South Melbourne's Bob Jane Stadium.
The on-park action began to heat up midway through the first half. In what was a trying day for players and officials because of the temperature - hovering around 37C all match, and so more suitable for a quiet lie down rather than a football match - the action switched from end to end.
John Markovski was first into action when he ran onto a pass from Bobby Despotovski sent in from the left diagonally to where Markovski met it wide on the right. But it fell for Markovski's right foot - and so not his preferred for shooting - and he shot wide to Didulica's right.
Immediately after came the Knights attack that produced the opening goal. Michael Reda - hard-working in the middle of the formation as always - found himself over a free-kick more than 25 metres out and slightly to the left of the goal Danny Milosevic defended. Reda's driving shot was too hot for Milosevic to gather, Hrvoje Karl followed up and looked set to score but saw his shot blocked to where it fell for Ivan Kelic. Kelic still had some work to do to turn, managed to do so, then blasted home from close-in.
Markovski sought to repeat the event and the outcome scarcely a minute later when he took a scorching free-kick from just outside the apex of the Knights' penalty-area, only to pick up the consolation prize of a corner after Didulica got his glove-tips to it and so diverted the ball over.
Ante Deak for Knights, and Boutsianis for Glory had opportunities within a minute of each other just before the break, but Deak's shot from distance was wide, and Boutsianis' was over.
In first-half stoppage time, Zeljko Susa failed to convert a golden chance from close-in after Ivan Kelic had played a clever square-ball wide left for Ice Kutlesovski who then sent in the cross.
If the fans thought the action would slow down through the teams' mutual exhaustion, by ten minutes into the second half, they'd be compelled to reconsider. What could have been a consolidating moment for Knights, turned into the leveller for Glory.
Karl was fed a perfectly weighted through ball in the 52nd minute, but found Milosevic quickly out at his feet. When Milosevic sent the ball forward to start the counter-attack, it was moved quickly from Boutsianis to Paul Strudwick, and then to the feet of Despotovski just six metres out, and deadly from that range.
Markovski then Despotovski could have brought the small but vocal travelling support joy in the 68th minute, when - taking advantage of Ransford Banini's prone position following a challenge just seconds before - Markovski was played onside and faced only Didulica, but again on his less favoured right side. Markovski's shot went wide to the left, only nano-seconds before Despotovski came rushing into that position.
Garcia was given his marching orders 74 minutes in after being awarded his second yellow-card, this time for a clash with Redan.
The upset was on, as the game looked well balanced with both teams fully staffed, and now Knights had an extra player with still sixteen regulation time - and as it turned out an extra five minutes to be added.
Despite the best endeavours of Kelic who combined with substitute Alex Kiratzoglou four minutes later. Kiratzoglou's shot from distance was well kept down, and took Milosevic two attempts to gather, the second at the feet of the on-rushing Karl.
Collina - another of the Knights' late substitutes - made a last gasp raid down the right side and set up Kelic, but the big striker's attempt to grab the three points with the winner was in vain.
Knights' coach Vid Horvat was seething after the game - not this time at the officials - but influential members of the club who he said were putting unfair pressure on him and the players. "We are on the way to form a great team for the future. Just give me time and opportunity. But I'm very disappointed with a couple of the former committee. They are so nervous. They are so high-pressure. (Today) against maybe the best team in the league - I don't say we dominated - but we were the better team.
"We are a good team for the future. (It's) just I need some quiet time but I have no quiet time. I'm under high pressure from people. And it's not fair to me or to the players."
Horvat promises next week's Melbourne derby at Optus Oval against Carlton will see his team continue: "Carlton is one of the best teams right now in the league. It's the favourite team, but we will see."