No Seoul for Sydney after last 16 draw
Sydney FC’s disastrous A-League season is fast becoming a distant memory, with the club qualifying for the final 16 in the Asian Champions League for the first time.
The Sky Blues lost 1-0 away to Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande in its final game in Group H, but still topped the group, one point ahead of Japanese club Urawa Red Diamonds.
With three wins, two losses and a draw from their six group games, the Sydney outfit avoided a daunting clash against Korean powerhouse FC Seoul, instead taking on Chinese outfit Shandong Luneng in the knockout phase.
The first leg will be in China on May 18, before the return clash in Sydney a week later.
The Sky Blues will fancy their chances against Shandong, a side which has won just twice from seven matches domestically this season to sit 12th in the Chinese Super League.
“Now we get to play another Chinese team in Shandong, which will be a very tough game. But we’ll be very confident after (the 1-0 loss away to Evergrande),” Sydney coach Graham Arnold (pictured) said.
“Playing against the richest club in China, the best club in China and performing like that ... we’ll be very confident going into the next game.
“If you had said to me before we started in this group of death that we would top the group and be ahead of Guangzhou, Urawa Reds and Pohang Steelers, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
The Melbourne Victory also ended its Champions League hoodoo with a 2-1 win over Gamba Osaka at AAMI Park to qualify for the round of 16 for the first time, after four previous unsuccessful attempts.
It was departing club great Archie Thompson who netted the winner when he converted a pinpoint cross from Kosta Barbarouses.
The goal was his first of the 2016 ACL campaign, and came eight years after the Victory’s maiden appearance in Asia’s premier club competition in 2008, when he scored against Thai side Chonburi FC.
The Victory finished second in Group G and will host the winner of Group E – either Jeonbuk Motors or Jiangsu Suning – on May 17, before heading abroad for the return leg a week later.
Group E was decided last night when Jeonbuk hosted Jiangsu and FC Tokyo visited Binh Duong.
“It’s a big achievement considering we’ve had five attempts,” Victory coach Kevin Muscat said.
“It’s great for the football club. We’ve managed to create some history.
“What that’s given me now is an unbelievable thirst and hunger to go and win the next tie.”