Football 1 year ago

Sydney FC out of Asian Champions League

  • Sydney FC out of Asian Champions League

    Shandong Luneng players celebrate after the final whistle while Sydney FC players react during their AFC Champions League round of 16 second leg football match in Sydney on May 25, 2016. / AFP / WILLIAM WEST / --IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE-- (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

A late Shandong Luneng goal has denied a 10-man Sydney FC a spot in the last eight of the Asian Champions League, holding them to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday night.

Substitute Hao Junmin netted in the 89th minute to destroy the Sky Blues' hopes of a maiden quarter-final berth despite a gutsy effort in a fiery, at times hectic match at Allianz Stadium.

Sydney seemed certain to progress after goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic sensationally saved a death-knell penalty less than 15 minutes from time, however Graham Arnold's depleted side could not hold off their visitors in front of a crowd of 9451.

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The hosts, who held a precious away goal from the first leg in China last week, had the early advantage here when Brandon O'Neill scored the opener and his first professional goal after just two minutes.

After David Carney was brought down on the left flank, the 22-year-old midfielder curled a low, hard free-kick that tucked in off the back post.

But Mano Menezes' visitors responded rapidly, and it was thanks only to goalscorer Rhyan Grant's vital interception that Shandong's Brazilian star Diego Tardelli did not connect his head with a cross to restore parity.

A minute later, the quick-footed Tardelli had the better of Grant to pop a lovely pass in to Argentine maestro Walter Montillo, whose first-time strike evaded a diving Janjetovic.

Tempers flared amid the pressure as players took issue with each other and referee Tantashev Ilgiz.

Matt Simon copped a yellow card after jostling with Shandong goalkeeper Wang Dalei, before O'Neill went into the book after pushing over a defender.

Whatever coach Arnold said to his team at halftime, he couldn't have predicted Grant's screamer straight after the break.

Milos Ninkovic started the move with some smart legwork and, when the ball fell to Grant on the right of the area, his acutely angled drive into the far corner gave Wang zero chance.

Shandong discovered their attacking rhythm and forced Sydney into some nervous moments, no more so than when Janjetovic produced a brilliant save to deny Jucilei before Liu Binbin headed wide.

All appeared to be lost when Zac Anderson was given his marching orders for holding onto would-be scorer Yang Xu in the goalmouth.

But in scarcely believable fashion, Janjetovic thwarted Tardelli's subsequent penalty.

Arnold shifted O'Neill to centre-back for extra cover in readiness for the coming onslaught as Shandong threw everything at their opponents and Tardelli botched another golden opportunity.

But no one could have stopped Hao's stunner from 20 metres out that put Shandong ahead on away goals and sent Sydney packing.

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