Sydney FC’s Asian campaign over
SYDNEY FC'S dreams of mixing it with the elite of Asia is over, after a night of pure frustration for the Sky Blues.
A goalless draw at home with Shanghai Shenhua, coupled with Suwon Bluewing's surprise win in Kashima, evicted Graham Arnold's side from the Asian Champions League at the end of the group stage.
Sydney fairly battered Shanghai but somehow failed to convert a multitude of chances - though in the end, the score from Japan rendered the result at Allianz irrelevant.
But the damage was done earlier in the campaign, one in which Sydney won only a single game and scored just seven goals in six games. There's no doubt they improved as the ACL progressed, but a record of taking just one point from their three home games simply wasn't strong enough to send them through to the knockout stages.
Sydney's dominance was absolute, reflected everywhere but on the score board. So densely were they camped around the Shanghai box, by halftime they had assumed squatter's rights.
The problem was the lack of conversion of so many chances. From every angle Sydney attacked and Shanghai's diffident defending was breached with regularity, but not the goal itself.
From the eighth minute, when Adrian Mierzejewski sent Bobo clear into the visiting box, the frustration grew. In that case Bobo's shot was too easily saved, and on 27 minutes Luke Wilkshire sidefooted wide from an angle after a breathing and sweeping move upfield cut Shanghai to shreds.
Milos Ninkovic appealed with justification for a penalty when he was bundled over, and Mierzejewski glanced a well-placed header wide.
As befitted a team already eliminated, Shanghai were desperately unambitious, their only shot on goal in the first hour a preposterous effort from his own half by Giovanni Moreno.
But Sydney's profligacy was deeply frustrating for the home fans. Coach Graham Arnold had spoken of them owning the key moments in the 4-1 win over Kashima a fortnight ago, finding the ruthlessness that had been missing earlier in the campaign.
Here they were gorging on chances, and looking slightly nauseous at the lack of a goal to show for it. Bobo summed up the night with two headers from Mierzejewski freekicks that he should have buried but flicked wide. In both cases he was spared further embarrassment by raised offside flags, but the heads in hands told a tale.
Shanghai's defending, it had to be said, was rather more resolute than their attacking; deeper and deeper they sat as Sydney chased the goal they needed.
Mierzejewski almost found it with a wonderful piece of skill, almost pulled to the ground just outside the box but still able to float a chip across the goalkeeper and millimetres wide of the far post.
Then the substitute David Carney missed an absolute sitter, meeting Mierzejewski's improvised cross with a bullet header that flew over, before the goalkeeper Qiu Shengjiong repelled a fierce volley from - who else? - Mierzejewski.
There was a brief scuffle near the end, but soon dejection was the overriding feeling.