ACL setback for Sky Blues in Japan

Sydney FC are bottom of their Asian Champions League group after going down to a 1-0 defeat away to Kawasaki Frontale.

The J.League hosts didn't score until seven minutes from time but dominated the Sky Blues, having 20 shots to their opponents' two.

Sydney FC's hopes of qualifying from Group H took a big hit against the team that had lost their opening match.

They went into the game at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium without midfielder Josh Brillante, who looks set to leave the club and move to South Korean outfit Pohang Steelers.

Coach Steve Corica left the 25-year-old out of the side as he said he "wasn't in the right frame of mind" to play due to the transfer interest in him.

The Sky Blues had an early chance when skipper Alex Brosque saw his header saved by keeper Jung Sung-ryong.

Leandro Damiao fired wide soon after for Kawasaki, before bringing a fingertip save from Andrew Redmayne midway through the half.

Kawasaki kept the keeper busy after the break and he had to make two superb stops to keep the scores blank.

First a looped volley from Hidemasa Morita from outside the area brought a full-stretch save from Redmayne, then 15 minutes from time he kept out a point-blank effort from Ao Tanaka.

Finally Kawasaki broke the deadlock when Manabu Saito swept home a deflected cross.

It leaves Corica's side bottom with just one point from their opening two fixtures in the tournament.

The coach said: "I thought we defended quite well. Kawasaki had quite a few chances but shots from distance, which our goalkeeper made quite good saves at times.

"We had a very good chance early on in the game, which maybe if we scored this goal the game would have been different … then we are in front and we can defend a lead.

"I'm pleased, our boys worked very hard. Disappointed not to get at least one point, but I thought Kawasaki were good. They're a good team, we knew this, they played good football."

Sydney FC are 5/2 to win the Grand Final.

The Sky Blues are 19/20 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 3/1 with the draw 5/2.

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Muscat ‘very positive’ despite defeat

Kevin Muscat praised his Melbourne Victory side for sticking to their guns after conceding an early goal in their 2-1 Asian Champions League loss to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

The defending A-League champions were beaten by an 86th-minute goal from Daiki Watari in their Group F clash, leaving them bottom of the table without a point after two games.

But their coach was proud of the way his team played against the Japanese side.

"To come to Japan, dominate the football game, dominate possession, dominate the play and be the more aggressive team is very pleasing," he said.

"Sometimes the performance, you're not rewarded with the result, but to perform against a team here in Japan the way we did was very positive."

Victory made a poor start to the game, with Shunki Higashi netting in the third minute.

But Muscat said: "That didn't stop us from playing a brand of football and taking the football to the opposition, trying to attack the opposition, keeping possession of the football."

Victory had almost 65 per-cent of the possession, and drew level when Keisuke Honda scored his seventh goal of the season.

Muscat said: "There were long periods…where we kept Sanfrecce in their own half for long periods, created many, many opportunities, many, many chances, with exciting football.

"We conceded in the first three minutes and the last three minutes so it's difficult emotions at this point."

Korean side Daegu FC, who beat Victory 3-1 in Melbourne in their first game, are top of Group F with six points while Sanfrecce and Guangzhou Evergrande both have a win and a loss from their first two matches.

Victory will need to pick up points from their two games next month against Guangzhou – they go to China on 10th April and host them at AAMI Park on 13th April.

Melbourne Victory are 3/1 to win the A-League Grand Final.

Victory are 2/5 to win their next game against Brisbane Roar, who are 6/1 with the draw 15/4.

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Late goal sinks Victory in Hiroshima

Melbourne Victory conceded a goal four minutes from time to go down 2-1 in their Asian Champions League match with Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

It means Kevin Muscat's side are up against it in their bid to qualify for the knockout stages, having suffered defeats in both their first two games.

Keisuke Honda marked his return to Japan with a goal for Victory, when he cancelled out Shunki Higashi's opener.

But Daiki Watari headed home for the hosts to settle the clash at the Hiroshima Big Arch.

Victory fell behind inside three minutes, when Higashi converted from Patric's cutback.

Higashi was denied a second soon afterwards when keeper Lawrence Thomas made a good save from his 25-yard strike.

But Victory had most of the ball in the first half and Honda had a decent chance 11 minutes before the break when he fired wide after a nice touch from Kosta Barbarouses.

The home side threatened on the stroke of half-time when it took a last-ditch challenge from Leigh Broxham to deny Patric.

Barbarouses saw an effort blocked by Takuya Wada early in the second half, with Honda then sending a powerful swerving effort narrowly over the crossbar.

Both sides continued to create chances, and the two keepers were busy.

Thomas made a fine save to deny Tsukasa Morishima before Watari fired wide for the hosts in the 65th minute.

At the other end James Troisi forced Hirotsugu Nakabayashi to tip his curling 25-yard effort over the bar.

Honda netted his seventh goal of the season on 71 minutes, converting a cross from full-back Storm Roux who had been released by Anthony Lesiotis' pass.

The game was up for grabs in the latter stages, with Thomas denying Patric in a one-on-one before Barbarouses fired into the side-netting from an angle.

Watari won it when he converted a cross from substitute Yoshifumi Kashiwa.

Victory are 2/5 to win their next game against Brisbane Roar, who are 6/1 with the draw 15/4.

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Le Fondre delighted with partnership

Adam le Fondre is buzzing ahead of his Asian Champions League debut for Sydney FC, and says he's delighted with his new strike partnership.

The former Reading player hopes to help the Sky Blues notch their first win in the continental competition on Wednesday when they take on Kawasaki Frontale.

All his previous football has been at domestic level, and the 31-year-old said: "This is one of the major things [I came for] – playing in competitions like this which are prestigious. I've played foreign teams before but not in competitive football like this."

Le Fondre, who is joint-leading scorer in the A-League with 14, says his strike combination with Reza Ghoochannejhad is coming along nicely. "The last game we played in we were bouncing off each other nicely, creating opportunities," he said. "We just couldn't create that clear-cut chance for either of us to take, really.

"But it's blossoming well. If you look at the Wellington game as well, we were setting each other up and I think you can see it's two good footballers who are on the same wavelength."

Sydney FC have their work cut out against a team who have won the J.League for the past two seasons, though the Japanese side have drawn their three games so far this term.

The Sky Blues couldn't make home advantage pay last week in their ACL opener against Ulsan Hyundai, when they were held to a goalless draw.

Steve Corica's team are the leading rivals to Perth Glory for the A-League minor premiership.

The Glory have topped the table since round 4 but Sydney – bidding for a third consecutive Premier's Plate – are only six points adrift with six rounds left.

Sydney FC are 7/1 to win their next game against Kawasaki Frontale, who are 2/5 with the draw 7/2.

The Sky Blues are 5/2 to win the A-League Grand Final.

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Wilkinson rates ACL chances

Defender Alex Wilkinson hopes Sydney FC can be more clinical when they take on Kawasaki Frontale in their second Asian Champions League game on Wednesday.

The Sky Blues couldn't find a way past the Ulsan Hyundai defence in their opening Group H match, when they drew 0-0.

Now they face a crucial test against the Japanese side who went down 1-0 to Shanghai SIPG in their first match.

Sydney FC failed to progress from their group last year, when they finished third with six points from their six games.

It was their home form that let them down as they earned just one point from three matches in front of their own fans.

They were unbeaten away from home and Wilkinson hopes that kind of form continues at Todoroki Athletics Stadium against a Kawasaki team who are 14th in the J-League.

"Without doubt, we'll take confidence from that, we didn't lose a game last year away," he said. "Kawasaki are a strong team but we've got a week's break, which is great.

"We've just got to be a little bit more clinical in terms of that final ball. Kawasaki won't be sitting back, they will be coming out at us, but at the same time we've shown that we can be solid."

The central defender added: "If we end up getting a point it's not the end of the world, we come back and prepare for our next game at home and go for three points there.

"If you can win two out of your three home games and pick up a few points away, then you usually get through."

Sydney FC are 5/2 to win the A-League Grand Final, while the Sky Blues are 50/1 to win the Asian Champions League.

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‘Struggling’ Victory glad of break

Defender James Donachie admits Melbourne Victory need to recharge their batteries after a first-up defeat to Daegu FC in the Asian Champions League.

The defending A-League champions went down 3-1 at home, despite taking the lead through Swedish striker Ola Toivonen.

They will have the benefit of a rest before they play their next game in Group H, when they travel to Japan to face Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Victory have no A-League game this weekend, a break that's badly needed given that they have now gone five games without a win.

Having to play a Grand Final re-match at home to Newcastle Jets last weekend, which they lost 2-0, made it a tough ask for the players to get through their first ACL clash.

"Rest is the most important thing. In the second half against Daegu, I think our boys showed we were struggling a bit," said Donachie.

"Not to take anything away from Daegu as they were better than us. We just need to rest well, especially in Japan which'll be a tough game again."

Kevin Muscat's team started their ACL campaign at a tough time, given that they had picked up just two points from their last four league matches.

The club have struggled in the competition and have only made it past the group stage once in their previous six appearances in the ACL.

Victory and Sanfrecce are the two teams without a point from their opening games, with the Japanese side having gone down to two first-half goals in their 2-0 defeat away to Guangzhou Evergrande.

Melbourne Victory are 4/9 to win their next game against Brisbane Roar, who are 11/2 with the draw 7/2.

Warland take the positives

Sydney FC's Asian Champions League opener against Ulsan Hyundai was an encouraging one, reckons defender Ben Warland.

Last season's minor premiers outplayed the Koreans at Jubilee Oval but had to settle for a point in a 0-0 draw. The match was badly affected by strong winds that made long passing difficult.

Steve Corica's team will go to Japan for Wednesday's second Group H clash with Kawasaki Frontale feeling reasonably satisfied with the way they played, says Warland.

Ulsan weren't as tough as he'd expected, the defender revealed, but he felt that was down to the way the Sky Blues had gone about their game plan.

"I think we executed it pretty well and unfortunately we couldn't get the goal," he said. "I don't think they created too many chances, it was just from our own mistakes and look, we took a lot of positives from it; the only negative is that we didn't get three points at home."

Warland had the job of marking Ulsan's Brazilian striker Junior Negrao, who scored 22 goals in the K-League last season.

The Koreans rarely threatened, though, leaving the Sky Blues player feeling positive about the result.

"I think we are very capable of getting through this group and I think that's a big positive for us," added Warland. "There was a lot of talk about us getting the hardest group but I think we handled ourselves very well tonight.

"We head over to Japan, that's going to be a tough game away from home but we'll take plenty of positives from tonight."

Kawasaki started their campaign with a 1-0 defeat away to Shanghai SIPG.

Sydney FC are 7/1 to win the Minor Premiership this season and 1/1 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 11/4 with the draw 12/5.

Stalemate for Sky Blues

Sydney FC were held to a goalless draw by Korean side Ulsan Hyundai in their opening game of the Asian Champions League.

The Sky Blues dominated the game at Jubilee Oval, but couldn't convert any of their chances in a match where the teams were hampered by a fierce wind.

It was a frustrating start to their Group H campaign, and only 4,039 fans were on hand to support last seasons' A-League minor premiers.

Adam le Fondre had their first chance after seven minutes, forcing keeper Oh Seung-Hoon into action, and he glanced a header narrowly wide from Michael Zullo's cross soon after.

The former Reading striker was off-target with a chip shot from the edge of the area and then turned provider just before the break, when he flicked on Rhyan Grant's cross to the far post where Reza Ghoochannejhad was unable to finish.

The home side continued to press after the break, with midfielder Anthony Caceres' powerfully struck shot from the edge of the area bringing a save from Oh.

The Korean keeper fumbled a cross in the wind on 64 minutes, but the ball was cleared before Ghoochannejhad could score.

Sydney FC captain Alex Brosque, who replaced the Iranian striker soon afterwards, tried a half-volley from distance but was off target, while the near-gale conditions caused big problems for the players in the latter stages, with neither side able to break the deadlock.

The Sky Blues next travel to Japan to take on Kawasaki Frontale, who lost their opening game 1-0 to Shanghai SIPG.

The Sky Blues are 1/1 to win their next A-League game against Melbourne City, who are 11/4, with the draw 12/5.

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Victory downed in ACL opener

Melbourne Victory made a poor start to their Asian Champions League campaign when they lost 3-1 to Daegu FC at AAMI Park.

The A-League champions took the lead against the South Koreans just before the half-hour mark, through Swedish striker Ola Toivonen.

But Daegu were able to convert their opportunities and, after Cesinha equalised, they won thanks to two goals in the space of 10 minutes after the break.

It was Victory's first home loss in the ACL in eight years and extended their disappointing sequence of results.

Kevin Muscat's side have seen their challenge for the A-League Premiers' Plate falter, with just two points earned from their last four matches.

Raul Baena curled a 20-yard effort just over when he got on the end of Kosta Barbarouses' cutback in the fourth minute.

And Victory continued to make the early running, with Barbarouses heading against the bar from Toivonen's cross.

They made the breakthrough with a move launched by Keisuke Honda, on his debut in the competition. He found Barbarouses, whose cross from the right was met by Toivonen for his 11th goal of the season.

Daegu were level within two minutes, though, as Cesinha volleyed home from 20 yards after fellow Brazilian Edgar headed down a cross for him.

Honda came close to restoring the home side's lead just before the break, but keeper Cho Hyun-Woo did well to keep out his shot after Toivonen had laid the ball off to him.

Daegu took the lead six minutes into the second half, as Hwang Soon-min's 20-yard strike took a deflection and looped over keeper Lawrence Thomas.

The visitors had two good chances to extend their advantage before Edgar did make it 3-1 when he scrambled in a Cesinha cross from the right.

The Victory are 4/9 to win their next A-League game against Brisbane Roar, who are 11/2, with the draw 7/2.

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Antlers KO Jets’ ACL hopes

Newcastle Jets lost out on a place in the Asian Champions League when they lost 4-1 in Japan to Kashima Antlers.

Playmaker Serginho struck twice in the last 23 minutes in the play-off to see off last year's beaten A-League Grand finalists at Kashima Soccer Stadium.

Ronny Vargas netted for the Jets midway through the first half to bring them level, five minutes after Sho Ito scored for the hosts.

But Newcastle, playing for the third time in a week, were only on terms for nine minutes before Shuto Yamamoto netted for Kashima to give them an interval advantage.

Kashima could have won by a bigger margin, but New Zealand international keeper Glen Moss made some excellent saves for the Jets.

Roy O'Donovan was denied early on for the visitors when a fingertip save from keeper Kwoun Sun-Tae kept out his strike from distance.

Soon after Ito poked the ball home after Serginho's clever flick was tipped on to the post by Moss.

Vargas equalised with a deflected shot that wrong-footed Kwoun, after the Jets had strung together a good passing move.

Moss twice saved from Ito within a minute to keep Newcastle level, before Yamamoto netted when he arrived at the far post to head home as the visitors' defence failed to deal with a floated cross.

Kashima made it 3-1 on 67 minutes when Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard's clumsy challenge on Leo Silva gave away a penalty that Serginho converted.

The Brazilian grabbed his second goal in injury time, just after O'Donovan had snatched at the Jets' best chance of the second half.

The Jets are 7/4 to win their next A-League game against Adelaide United, who are 6/4, with the draw 23/10.

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