It was a respectable night for the Australian teams in the AFC Champions League, as both Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC drew with their Chinese opponents.
Victory managed a 1-1 draw with Guangzhou Evergrande in Melbourne, while the Sky Blues and Shanghai SIPG played an entertaining 2-2 tie at Shanghai Stadium.
Kevin Muscat named a young side, with Ola Toivonen, Keisuke Honda and Kosta Barbarouses among those that were rested. Elvis Kamsoba, Kenny Athiu and Jai Ingham started for the Victory and played their role well.
Guangzhou opened the scoring in the 24th minute through Huang Bowen, however Ingham equalised shortly after. It was Ingham’s third goal in eight Champions League appearances and the 25-year-old showed that he still has plenty to offer.
The Guangzhou team featured players such as Paulinho, Talisca and Tyias Browning, however it did not intimidate the Victory. While the result means that they cannot progress to the next round of the competition, they put in a good performance and got a result that showed that they were no easy beats.
Their next AFC Champions League match will see them travel to South Korea to face Daegu FC, who defeated them 3-1 in Melbourne back in March.
Immediately after Victory’s draw, Sydney FC put in a solid performance against powerhouse Shanghai SIPG.
Milos Ninkovic felt unwell prior to match, which led to Reza Ghoochannejhad starting for the Sky Blues.
Sydney opened the scoring through Brandon O’Neill in the 33rd minute, following a beautiful passage of play. However, Shanghai equalised in the 47th minute, with Elkeson hitting the back of the net again.
Around ten minutes later, Wang Shenchao gave the home side the lead. Despite going down, Adam Le Fondre was able to score another for Sydney and bring the match level again.
Both sides had lots of chances and possession was fairly equal. As was the case in the match a fortnight ago in Kogarah, it was entertaining viewing that left many wishing that the two would play each other again.
Sydney held on late in the match following a barrage of Shanghai chances and got a respectable point away from home.
While a win would have been preferential for the Sky Blues, the draw does not mean that they are eliminated from the competition.
They are only two points behind second-placed Shanghai with two matches against Ulsan and Kawasaki Frontale remaining. They must rely on other matches to qualify, however strong performances will give them a chance of obtaining a positive result in their remaining fixtures. Their bonus of securing a week off in the A-League finals allows them to put more focus on the Champions League.
Overall, it was a decent and respectable night for the Australian teams in the competition.