No points yet but more respect for A-League teams in Asia


Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory may have lost all their games since the AFC Champions League resumed in Qatar, but while there have been zero points gained, there is some respect for the performances they've produced under challenging circumstances.

The A-League champions were the first to lose despite being on top for the first half against Shanghai SIPG last Thursday.

Had chances been taken earlier in the game, the Sky Blues could have had a comfortable lead, but instead, a tired second-half showing - having not played competitive football since August - proved costly.

Perth’s pain, however, was the sharpest.

The West Australians were 1-0 ahead a minute from the end against Ulsan Hyundai, thanks to a goal from Daniel Stynes, but still ended up on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline, just as they did against Shanghai Shenhua six days earlier.

The inexperienced Glory line-up perhaps lulled Ulsan, looking to repeat their Asian success of 2012, into a false sense of security.

“While we deserved the victory, it was a big relief to win and perhaps we underestimated Perth before the game,” an Ulsan official told The World Game.

Ulsan may have been without a few players through injury, illness and rotation, but they were still able to call upon 2020 K-League top scorer Junior Negrao, who came off the bench to score the injury-time winner, as well as former Borussia Dortmund defender Park Joo-ho and ex-CSKA Moscow star, Kim In-sung.

There was still plenty of experience in the starting line-up, too, with Lee Chung-yong, who starred in the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers, taking the pitch alongside 2012 Asian Player of the Year Lee Keun-ho and former $8 million man Kim Kee-hee.

“We knew that they had a lot of players without much experience and have not played many games recently but it was a really tough game,” the official said.

“When you are behind with just one or two minutes left, then you are very happy to win. We will make sure we are completely focused when we play Perth again on Friday.”

After zero points from the first three games, anything less than a victory against a team with serious ambitions to win the title will see Perth eliminated with two rounds still to play.

Melbourne Victory, meanwhile, put on a decent showing against Beijing Guoan in their first game for three-and-a-half months but ultimately lost 3-1.

Grant Brebner handed debuts to four of his starting eleven and while they struggled to handle Beijing’s in-form Brazilian trio of Renato Augusto, Alan and Fernando, the Chinese media revised its outlook somewhat.

Before, there was an expectation of a big and easy win for Beijing, installed by many at home as the favourites to win the competition.

But after, there was an appreciation of a youthful-looking Melbourne team.

“For Melbourne, there were a number of players on the squad list who were born in this century,” Jinyun News reported.

“With such a line-up, it was always going to be difficult for them to line up against such players that Beijing have. It was a solid performance.”

Sydney FC have a chance to pick up the first Australian win since the resumption of the competition when they take on Jeonbuk Motors on Wednesday.

In fact, both champions of Australia and South Korea need all three points after collecting only one from the first three games.

Jeonbuk striker Gustavo scored in a 2-1 loss to Shanghai and knows that defeat could spell an early exit.

“We have to beat Sydney, we have to win all the three games remaining,” the Brazilian said.

“We know that Sydney are a good team and that we are in for a tough game, but we also know what we have to do.”