Heartbreak as Sydney FC bow out of ACL

Sydney FC’s AFC Champions League campaign has come to an end after a heartbreaking 2-2 draw with Shandong Luneng at Allianz Stadium on Wednesday night.

The Sky Blues were on track to progress to the last 8 before substitute Hao Junmin produced a spectacular long-range strike in the 90tth minute to break the hosts’ hearts.

Following the 1-1 first leg in Shandong, the visitors’ move into the quarter finals on the away goals rule. 

Earlier, Brandon O’Neill gave Sydney FC the lead inside two minutes before Walter Montillo restored parity just 10 minutes later.

A stunning strike from Rhyan Grant and a string of class saves from Vedran Janjetovic in the second stanza looked to be enough for Sydney FC before Junmin’s last minute strike.

David Carney secured a vital away goal for the Sky Blues in Shandong and the winger was again the chief protagonist in the early stages in Sydney.

Carney was brought down just outside the area inside the first two minutes and it proved decisive with youngster Brandon O’Neill finding the target with the ensuing free kick.

From an acute angle, O’Neill fizzed in a dangerous ball which somehow evaded a crowd of bodies before ricocheting off the post and into the back of the net.

But just as the hosts looked comfortable, a lightning counter attack from the visitors saw Shandong restore parity just 10 minutes later.

Diego Tardelli was released down the left flank after a poor turnover from Rhyan Grant and the Brazilian made the hosts pay with a superb piece of individual brilliance.

The attacker expertly held the ball up before delivering an inch perfect ball to Walter Montillo who coolly slotted to make it 1-1.

Both teams settled into the contest as the half progressed but it was the visitors who almost doubled their advantage in the 35th minute through Tardelli.

Montillo played a delightful ball in behind which was expertly controlled by Tardelli but the Brazilian’s left-footed strike was well stopped by Vedran Janjetovic.

Vedran Janjetovic.

Tensions boiled over on the stroke of half time as both teams became involved in physical altercations, with Matt Simon and Brandon O’Neill both picking up yellow cards for the hosts.

It was a case of Déjà vu to start the second half as Sydney FC regained the lead with a brilliant strike from Rhyan Grant.

Almost straight from the kick off,  Grant received the ball on the edge of the area before unleashing a thumping volley across goal which fizzed past Shandong keeper Wang Dalei.  

The visitors responded almost immediately with Jucilei’s bullet header forcing a stunning reflex save from Sky Blues keeper Vedran Janjetovic.

Shandong continued to press and almost found the net just two minutes later through Liu Binbin but the midfielder could only direct his header wide from six yards.

The Chinese outfit were gifted the chance to level proceedings from the penalty spot with just over 10 minutes remaining after Zac Anderson was shown red for pulling down Yang Xu.

But Diego Tardelli’s tame effort was well stopped by Janjetovic with the Brazilian firing the rebound over the crossbar.

The visitors finished the match the stronger and grabbed a spectacular winner in the final minute, with substitute Hao Junmin fizzing a powerful strike from distance which flew into the top corner.

Sydney FC 2 (O’Neill 2′, Grant 46′)

Shandong Luneng 2 (Montillo 12′, Junmin 90′)

Crowd – 9451 @Allianz Stadium