Against one of the wealthiest clubs in world football, Sydney FC needed a win to keep their Asian Champions League campaign alive. In the eyes of many, they deserved one. They came within minutes of sealing one but ultimately the only victory the Sky Blues achieved at Kogarah Oval on Wednesday night was moral.
In time, it will be looked back upon far more fondly than in the painful immediate aftermath but their performance in drawing 3-3 against an Oscar-led Shanghai SIPG showed how an Australian club can compete with a monolith of continental football.
Had it not been for a dramatic late equaliser for Shanghai, Sydney FC would have snared one of the most famous results in their short history. Captain Alex Brosque scored what looked to be a winning goal in the 84th minute but a club that boasts a player paid more than the entire A-League salary cap hit back with a minute remaining to dash the Sky Blues' hopes.
It almost seemed scripted to be a stunning upset in favour of the Sydney FC from the outset. The Sky Blues were in desperate need of luck to fall their way if they were to a get a shock result and the hosts got just that in the third minute.
There were plenty of big names on show but it was Sydney's Dutch international Siem de Jong who stole the show early. He rounded a defender to fire a left foot shot that took a wicked deflection that took the ball past goalkeeper Yan Junling to make it 1-0.
They rode their luck again as Shanghai threw everything in search of an equaliser and were fortunate not to have conceded in the 18th minute when Oscar bore down on goal. However, the Brazilian spurned a good chance to score when he sprayed his finish over the bar amid pressure from Sydney's Alex Wilkinson.
Instead, Oscar was at his most deadly as a provider. In the 27th minute, he delivered a wicked cross to find the run of Lyu Wenjun, who continued his rich vein of form in front of goal, guided a glancing header past Sydney''s Andrew Redmayne to make it 1-1.
That score didn't last long. Three minutes later, the Sky Blues were given another gift. A vigilant referee Alireza Faghani spotted a slight handball inside the box to give Sydney FC a chance to reclaim their lead from the spot. Adam Le Fondre stepped up and powered a trademark penalty into the roof of the net.
Asia's big spenders threw everything in search of another equaliser and looked towards their stars. This time, it was Hulk who provided. The powerful Brazilian's cross was turned into the net by defender Yu Hai in the 36th minute to make it 2-2.
For all of Shanghai's attacking raids, Sydney FC held their own. Their defence was spread, their resolve tested but they heaped plenty of frustration upon the former Brazilian national team players they faced.
None did that better than fullback Michael Zullo, which is why it was so painful for the Sydney FC bench to see the defender forced off with a hamstring injury just after the hour mark, casting doubt over his availability for Saturday's derby against the Wanderers.
Those concerns were put aside seconds later when striker Reza Ghoochannejhad latched on to Le FondRead More – Source