Sydney FC on the board in Asia after thriller
THERE is life in Sydney FC's Asian Champions League campaign yet after the A-League champions produced a much-improved performance to hold Shanghai Shenhua to a thrilling 2-2 away draw.
Four first-half goals in 13 minutes highlighted a gripping contest and although the Sky Blues were forced to settle for a point - their first from the opening two matches - the display was full of positives for coach Graham Arnold.
However, the match may have come at a cost, with left-back Michael Zullo sustaining a hamstring injury that's almost certain to keep him out of Sunday's A-League Sydney derby and potentially beyond.
Arnold named an unchanged team from last week's shock 2-0 loss to Suwon Bluewings but the display was barely recognisable from what they showed at Allianz Stadium.
Shenhua were led by their star foreigners, with Obafemi Martins and Fredy Guarin both finding the net and Colombian playmaker Giovanni Moreno a constant thorn in the side of the visitors.
Defensively there were nervy moments at both ends of the field and Sydney's attacking sparks Milos Ninkovic and Adrian Mierzejewski were equally dangerous to the home side Twenty-six minutes ticked by before the deadlock was broken when Martins opened the floodgates by tapping in at the far post.
Two minutes later Sydney equalised when Luke Wilkshire's cross was met by the head of Bobo.
Goalkeeper Li Shuai got a hand to the Brazilian's effort but it fell invitingly to former Socceroos star Wilkshire who fired home the rebound.
Sydney skipper Alex Brosque then gave his side the lead with a superb left-foot finish after good link-up play between Ninkovic and Mierzejewski. Suddenly the confident visitors had the ascendancy and were ripping through the Shanghai midfield at will.
However, parity was restored just before halftime following a poor punch by Andrew Redmayne that Guarin volleyed back from the edge of the box and past the despairing dive of the Sydney gloveman.
The goal-fest ended there as a futile 50-minute scrap for a winner ensued. Shenhua started to dictate play after the restart and forced Sydney to dig in. The home side were lucky to finish with 11 men after Moreno got away with a yellow card for a two-footed studs-up tackle on Wilkshire.
Sydney also had their moments: Mierzejewski's superb ball unleashed Brosque only for his angled shot to hit the side netting, before Ninkovic spurned two gilt- edged chances.
Despite the promising performance, Brosque said it was two points dropped. "In the end (it was disappointing)," Brosque said.
"Normally playing away in the Champions League a point is good but tonight we should have won the game.
"We had a lot of chances. In another night I think we get four or five. Tonight just that goal was missing."
SHANGHAI SHENHUA 2 (Obafemi Martins 26, Fredy Guarin 39) SYDNEY FC 2 (Luke Wilkshire 28, Alex Brosque 34) at Shanghai Hongkou Football Stadium. Referee: Valentin Kovalenko