The home truths that are hurting Sydney FC


Sydney FC's stated ambition to become big players in Asian club football took a nosedive in the first match of their AFC Champions League campaign.

The Sky Blues faced the Korea Republic's Ulsan Hyundai at Kogarah and could muster only a 0-0 draw in a match they should have won.

The home team attacked almost incessantly - in patches also playing some polished football - but could not find a way past Ulsan's brave defenders, who often put their bodies on the line to block anything Sydney threw at them in a stoic attempt to emerge unscathed from a tough opener.

There is no doubt that Ulsan were by far the happier of the two teams with the stalemate and will feel they deserved the draw for the way they kept Sydney at bay, limiting them to a handful of half scoring chances.

Sydney coach Steve Corica had every reason to be satisfied with the way his men played all over the park but lamented the fact that his players basically did everything but score.

"That was one of our best performances with the ball but It would not fall for us," Corica said ruefully.

Corica, who was a member of Sydney's team that took part in their inaugural Champions League campaign in 2007, knows that the key to surviving the group stages in Asia is winning your home matches and nicking a draw or two on the road.

And this is where the Sky Blues come a cropper.

They not only have failed to win a match in their last four home games across two competitions but also have failed to score one single goal.

Last season they lost to Suwon Bluewings and Kashima Antlers by the same 2-0 score and drew 0-0 with Shanghai Shenhua.

Their profligacy on home soil cost them dearly last year because they came third in the group and were eliminated.

This year they already are behind the eight ball and next week's match in Japan against J.League champions Kawasaki Frontale is shaping as a 'must not lose' affair.

Kawasaki will be looking to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat at Shanghai SIPG.

Melbourne Victory are in a worse situation than Sydney after crashing to a 3-1 defeat to Daegu FC at AAMI Park.

Kevin Muscat's men played beautifully for an hour with Keisuke Honda and particularly Ola Toivonen catching the eye with some delightful football.

But Daegu, who are taking part in the competition for the first time, came back strongly in the second half thanks largely to their crafty captain Cesinha and were good value for an important win.

Same as Sydney, Victory must get something from their next match to entertain any hope of reaching the knockout stage.

Next week they are away to Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who caused a stir in their first match against Guangzhou Evergrande in China by resting their entire first team. Not surprisingly they lost 2-0.

The two matches in Sydney and Melbourne drew sparse crowds of 4,039 and 5,572 respectively that once again illustrated the fans' apathy towards the competition, although this is not necessarily an Australian problem. Crowds are generally poor almost everywhere.

Corica admitted after the match that there was not much he or his players could do to draw more people to the Champions League, which of course is of a higher standard than that of the A-League.

"You would like the fans to turn up like they do in the A-League but it is what it is," he said.

"The boys played well tonight and deserved to be playing in front of more people.

"I don't know why (they don't come), you'll have to ask them. My job is to coach the boys and try to get results."

Australians clearly are no big fans of midweek football for several reasons, and A-League clubs over the years have struggled to draw as many fans to their Champions League matches as they do in the A-League.

The only exceptions are Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers, who often packed Hindmarsh Stadium and Parramatta Stadium on their way to the final in 2008 and 2014 respectively.

Winning home matches would be a start in selling the competition.