Our UEFA Cup Group Stage campaign got underway without any points being registered following a 2-0 defeat to Udinese.
A first half penalty - just like at Stoke on Sunday - and a sending off early in the second half again made it an uphill struggle for the team and, like last season, ground will have to be made up in the remaining three games of the group.
Udinese applied a degree of early pressure that required the reassuring presence of Ledley King, restored to the side alongside Jonathan Woodgate at the heart of defence. In front of the England internationals was a five-man midfield including two left-footers in the shape of Jamie O'Hara and Gareth Bale in support of Darren Bent in the lone striker role.
The Italians were precise and methodical in their early work, while our play was patient and stirred mostly by the promptings of O'Hara and the willing running of Bale. Jermaine Jenas carved out our clearest opening in the 15th minute, his measured centre being headed goalwards by Bent when he perhaps had time to chest and volley.
O'Hara had no hesitation in trying his luck from all of 30 yards after Jenas injected some mayhem into the Udinese defences - the tempo was increasing from the team in blue.
Such ambition took a considerable dent on 22 minutes when Heurelho Gomes was slow to clear his lines from a Benoit Assou-Ekotto back pass and subsequently got in a tangle with Quagliarella in the top corner of the area and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Di Natale drilled his kick to the Brazilian's right and it was advantage Udinese.
Gomes parried away a swerving effort from Motta as the Italians sought to capitalise on their good fortune before an Aaron Lennon sprint looked like it might bring some reward, but such was his speed, he was unable to keep his footing.
A Bale corner presented Alan Hutton with half a chance at the far post before he was crowded out and rolled into the path of O'Hara, who was unable to keep his powerful drive on target.
Juande Ramos made a single change at half-time, drafting in Luka Modric in place of Assou-Ekotto, a move which resulted in O'Hara switching to left-back.
O'Hara's stay on the pitch was not to last much longer though as two yellow cards in quick succession brought his evening to an end and Bale became our third left-back of the match.
Jonathan Woodgate was replaced by Giovani dos Santos in a change that saw Didier Zokora move to central defence - with Lennon going left and Giovani right of midfield.
Gomes produced a spectacular retreat to deny Di Natale doubling the home advantage just after the hour, the Italian international lofting the ball goalwards with the Brazilian somehow managing to backtrack in time.
Quagliarella forced another fine stop from Gomes in front of goal - albeit from an offide position - as Udinese were looking fairly comfortable against the ten men.
A King header from a Bale throw caused momentary concern for the home side before a Giovani run and cross led to a thumping header from Bent that Handanovic in the Udinese goal superby tipped over.
It proved the cue for a burst up the other end where Pepe was presented with the opportunity to place past Gomes, with the ball landing in the net via the goalkeeper's left hand upright.