Late heroics sees Sydney FC stun Guangzhou in ACL

A late Milos Dimitrijevic goal has spurred Sydney FC to an incredible 2-1 win over big-spending Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande in a pulsating AFC Champions League clash on Wednesday night.

In front of more than 18,000 fans in Sydney, the Sky Blues produced one heck of a performance to stun the defending ACL champions with Dimitrijevic coming off the bench to be the hero.

Sydney took an early lead through Robert Stambolziev before Huang Bowen equalised midway through the first half, after Ricardo Goulart had already missed a penalty.

Sydney FC players celebrate Robert Stambolziev's opener against Guangzhou Evergrande.

Both sides wasted excellent chances either side of the break and it appeared to be heading towards a draw until Dimitrijevic produced his moment of magic at the death.

It’s a huge win for the Sky Blues, whose entire playing roster costs just $4million, compared to Guangzhou who spent a little over $100m on their imports alone.

If there were any concerns about the disparity in quality for the Sky Blues players before the match they certainly didn’t show it in the early stages as they started the brighter of the two sides.

They enjoyed good spells of possession and didn’t allow the likes of Ricardo Goulart and Jackson Martinez to get into the game.

And got a reward for their early endeavour on 17 minutes. Guangzhou failed to clear a corner and after a bit of head-tennis inside the box, Shane Smeltz headed it into the path of Stambolziev who smashed in a volley from close range.

The setback seemed to sting the visitors into action and just four minutes later they won a penalty when Sebastian Ryall dragged down Martinez in the box for a penalty.

But Janjetovic bailed his defender out, producing a brilliant save down low to his right to keep out Goulart’s tame spot-kick.

Vedran Janjetovic

The Sky Blues should have heeded the warning but didn’t and Evergrande equalised on 25 minutes.

Goulart spotted the run of Bowen who sprung the offside trap and surged into the box, his powerful low drive hit a lunging Aaron Calver on the line and went in.

It was breathless stuff with chances flowing at both ends. Matt Jurman hit the crossbar with a header from Brandon O’Neill’s free-kick before Martinez showed a glimpse of why Guangzhou paid $65million for him.

The Colombian international shrugged of a challenge of Jurman before skinning Rhyan Grant but his wicked left-foot shot flashed across the face of goal and wide.

While the cracking pace slowed after the break the chances kept coming at both ends.

Both Smeltz and Milos Ninkovic saw efforts go wide either side of a glorious opportunity for Guangzhou, squandered by Yu Hanchao who failed to hit the target with only Janjetovic to beat.

Brandon O’Neill was next to try his luck as the home side broke forward with four on two, the midfielder deciding to shoot from range instead of passing to David Carney in a better position.

With their domestic season yet to start, Guangzhou tired considerably as the match went on and the Sky Blues made it count two minutes from time.

Carney squeezed an excellent pass into Dimitrijevic in the box, the Serbian taking the ball past one defender before his shot was too hot for Zeng Cheng to handle, sneaking in at the near post.

Sydney held on for a huge upset and a memorable win against Asia’s elite to move second in their group ahead of their trip to Pohang Steelers in a fortnight.

Sydney FC 2 (Stambolziev 17’, Dimitrijevic 88’)

Guangzhou Evergrande 1 (Bowen 25’)

Crowd: 18,149 @ Sydney Football Stadium