Melbourne City coach John Van't Schip is in a race to get his first XI fit for next week's blockbuster A-League derby with reigning champions Melbourne Victory.
City managed a 1-1 draw against 2014/15 grand finalists Sydney FC in their season opener at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night despite being without several key players due to injuries and international commitments.
Hot new signings Ivan Franjic (quad) and Corey Gameiro (knee) were among the eight ruled out for the clash, with Harry Novillo (hamstring) and Aaron Hughes (international duty) also absent.
Promising new left back Michael Zullo, himself struggling with a calf complaint, was named on the bench but also failed to make an appearance for the competition's wealthiest side, heavily tipped to challenge title favourites Victory and Sydney this season.
Instead, to the pitch took a rookie front third made up of Wade Dekker, Hernan Espindola and Uruguayan Bruno Fornaroli, who were all on A-league debut and with Dekker and Espindola having never played a professional game.
Dekker made his opportunity count, pouncing on a Jacques Faty error in the 16th minute to net the visitors' sole goal.
Van `t Schip was content to take a point against a side he said pressed harder, and hailed his new blood for stepping up to the plate.
But he will want his big guns for next week's showdown, the first battle with their cross-town rivals and a shot to gain an early mental edge.
"It's going to be a race to get some players back, but it could be that maybe one or two can make that step," the coach said.
"We'll have a long, hard week of training for those players and see who comes out good, but of course they're not going to be able to play 90 minutes yet.
"Today we had Michael Zullo, he was coming back from a period of not training regularly, so we're happy he was there. But he's also in kind of a pre-season still."
Slovenian marquee Robert Koren started in his preferred midfield position while ex-Danish international gloveman Thomas Sorensen recovered from a shaky start to make some important saves, in a match where the Sky Blues had eight shots on target.
Van `t Schip defended his decision to bring on Aaron Mooy for Jason Trifiro just before the hour mark, despite his star midfielder arriving direct from Socceroos duties in Jordan.
It was a gamble he was willing to take in an attempt to break the deadlock.
"Of course still that's a little bit of a risk," he admitted.
"But he felt good and we said `well okay, if we really need you then it's going to be 30 minutes and we'll see what happens'.
"And we needed him, so that's why he played."