Sydney stunned by 10-man Jeonbuk in virus-hit AFC Champions League
SYDNEY: Sydney FC ended a three-game goal drought but failed to secure a first home AFC Champions League win in four years Wednesday as 10-man Jeonbuk Motors snatched a dramatic 2-2 draw.
The Group H clash at Jubilee Stadium was only the second fixture this week to survive the havoc caused to Asia’s top club competition by the coronavirus which saw 14 group stage matches postponed.
The game sprung to life five minutes after half-time when the South Korean two-time former continental champions took the lead as Luke Brattan poked an attempted clearance into his own net.
The Australian side levelled six minutes later when Trent Buhagiar finished coolly inside the near post after a mazy run. And it looked as if they had sealed their first home win since beating South Korea’s Pohang Steelers in the 2016 group stages with a controversial penalty 15 minutes from time.
Choi Bo-kyung was ruled to have handled, though the ball appeared to strike the defender’s ribs on the ground as he attempted to block a goalbound shot. Choi’s agony was compounded as he was shown a red card and Adam Le Fondre smacked home from the spot for a 2-1 lead.
It was the ill-disciplined Jeonbuk’s third red card in two Champions League outings, having been reduced to nine men in their 2-1 home defeat to Yokohama last month.
Jeonbuk’s Portuguese manager Jose Morais threw on striker Murilo Henrique in search of an equaliser with seven minutes to go and the bold move paid off. The Brazilian rattled the post with a rasping right-foot shot in the 89th minute and Cho Gue-sung gratefully slotted home the rebound to secure a share of the points.
On Tuesday, Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia had enjoyed a 2-1 Group G win over South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings in the week’s only other match to survive the coronavirus chaos as travel restrictions forced most continental fixtures to be postponed.
Extra dates for group games have been pencilled in for April, May and June to clear the backlog, but it means last-16 games not beginning until August, two months later than normal.
“These are challenging and unprecedented times,” said Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general Windsor John after emergency talks in Kuala Lumpur with East Asia club representatives on Monday.
Delegates for the West Asia clubs, whose entire Champions League programme was postponed this week, will hold emergency talks with the AFC at the weekend in the United Arab Emirates. The West and East competitions are played separately until the final.