SYDNEY — Luis Garcia made his A-League debut in a losing cause on Saturday as the Central Coast Mariners lost 2-1 to the Western Sydney Wanderers to remain anchored to the bottom of the table.
The Wanderers' ninth win of the season propelled them to the top of the table, above former leaders Brisbane, beaten 4-1 by Adelaide City on Friday.
Former Liverpool star Garcia took the field as a substitute in the 60th minute and showed that at age 37 — and 18 months since his last competitive game — he's still a class act.
He helped turn around a patchy performance by the Mariners, taking a role in their equalizer. But Central Coast suffered when captain Nick Montgomery was shown a straight red card which the Wanderers punished with a late winner by Brendan Santalab.
"From the first second I got onto the pitch, I enjoyed it," Garcia said. "The crowd was fantastic today and hopefully for the rest of the season we can give the supporters a lot of joy."
Mariners coach Tony Walmsley was delighted with Garcia's impact.
"He showed his quality and the weight on the pass that set up the goal was top draw," he said. "He's not going be a 90-minute player but if he can have that kind of impact he had for the rest of the season, he'll be an asset."
After an early goal by the Wanderers' Mark Bridge, Garcia helped lay on a 67th-minute goal for Fabio Ferreira with a pinpoint pass which created a breakout by Mitch Austin.
The Mariners' resurgence was cut short by Montgomery's sending off and Santalab exploited a defensive error to score the winner two minutes from fulltime.
Brisbane gave up first place with its 4-1 defeat to Adelaide, a week after a 4-0 defeat by the Melbourne Victory.
Adelaide led with an own goal by Corey Brown after 19 minutes but couldn't extend that lead before Henrique equalized with a controversial penalty in the 50th.
A double to Bruce Djite in the 56th and 67th minutes put the result beyond doubt and Marcelo Carrusca completed the rout deep into stoppage time.
Adelaide is now unbeaten in eight games and has moved back inside the top six but coach Guillermo Amor said his players won't be carried away by their recent good form.
"The goal is to win the next game," Amor said. "Game-to-game, to work and to prepare for this game and no more. Don't think now about April.
"The same as we did when we were not doing well, we went game-by-game and step-by-step."
In the remainder of an extended round, Newcastle plays Perth on Sunday, Melbourne City host Wellington on Monday and the Melbourne Victory meet Sydney FC on Tuesday.