Sydney FC head coach Steve Corica was left lamenting missed opportunities as his side became the second A-League outfit to suffer a close AFC Asian Champions League loss in two days.
Twenty-four hours after Perth Glory came up short, despite a spirited fightback, in a 2-1 reverse against Chinese Super League outfit Shanghai Shenhua, the A-League Champions fell by the same scoreline against Socceroos star Aaron Mooy’s Shanghai SIPG.
Although the Sky Blues suffered a similar fate to their domestic rivals, young speedster Trent Buhagiar had fired the Harbour City club into an eighth-minute lead from Kosta Barbarouses’ pass at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
Chances to extend the advantage fell to Ben Warland, Paulo Retre and Barbarouses but the Group H clash tipped in the Red Eagles’ favour when Li Shenglong scored a pair of headers in the space of 16 second-half minutes.
Former Melbourne City and Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Mooy provided the assist for Shanghai SIPG’s opener, and the match ended on a sour note when Sydney goalkeeper Tom Heward-Belle saw red for handling outside of his penalty area.
“We played really well, scored the goal and went one nil up,” Corica said. “We had two or three chances after that and we didn’t take our chances in the end, that’s what the game came down to.
“Maybe we take our chances and we go in three nil up at half time.”
“You don’t take your chances you can always get in trouble,” Corica continued.
“That’s what happened second half, they took their chances. They only had two chances and scored both goals. It was a disappointing end to the game.”
The head coach added: “We had the one goal lead, we were quite happy with that but when they scored, we had to change a little bit and we probably didn’t adapt to that.”
Sydney FC sit at the bottom of the group win a single point from three matches, and next face third-placed Japanese J-League club Jeonbuk Motors on Wednesday, 25 November.
Error from stand-in keeper Velaphi costs Glory in narrow Shenhua loss
Perth Glory finished in the ascendancy but could not recover from a damaging first half as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat against Shanghai Shenhua in Group F on Wednesday.
Peng Xinli slotted the Chinese Cup winners ahead in the seventh minute and a howler from stand-in Glory goalkeeper Tando Velaphi allowed Yu Hanchao’s tame shot to squirm through his hands for 2-0 on 38 minutes, leaving Richard Garcia’s side with a mountain to climb.
Captain Diego Castro was playing his first match in eight months after the Spanish maestro missed the post-lockdown resumption of the 2019/20 season following a contract dispute, and the Spanish maestro combined well with Bruno Fornaroli as Glory upped the tempo after the break.
Uruguayan dangerman Fornaroli fired a shot straight at SIPG keeper Li Shuai before Jonathan Aspropotamitis finally grabbed a goal back on 81 minutes by pouncing on a rebound, but Fornaroli could not hit the target with an acrobatic bicycle kick deep into stoppage time.
After being handed a second straight competition defeat, head coach Garcia took the positives and praised the promising senior debuts of four academy youngsters – Joshua Rawlins, Luke Bodnar, Declan Hughes and Bryce Bafford.
“It was a decent performance,” Garcia said. “The way the boys went about their business and played was very encouraging.
“There were some very good performances which is fantastic after such a short run-in to the tournament.
“Some of the younger players started with a few nerves, but they grew into the game and as it went on, I think their belief in themselves grew and their performances were very good.
“My message to the group after the game was that there were a lot of positives, we played well in patches and that we have a lot to work on to get to the next level, to where we want to be.”