Sydney FC boss on ACL loss: ‘we beat ourselves’

Graham Arnold has immediately switched his focus to bringing down Chinese superpower Guangzhou Evergrande after Wednesday night’s disappointing start to their AFC Champions League campaign.

The Sky Blues were made to pay for a couple of defensive lapses in going down 2-0 to Urawa Red Diamonds at a chilly Saitama Stadium.

MATCH REPORT: Sky Blues slump to Urawa defeat in ACL

While it’s a far from ideal start, Arnold wasn’t too disheartened with his side’s showing and knows results at home will be key to determining their hopes of progressing from the group.

“I felt we were even [with Urawa] but we beat ourselves, they didn’t beat us,” Arnold said.

“We were equal to Urawa Reds but it’s important we win our home games. What’s important in the Champions League is that you win your home games.  

“We’ve got three games at home and if we win that then we’ve got a good chance.”

Arnold made seven changes to the side that drew 1-1 with the Wanderers in Saturday night’s Sydney derby.

Key points:

  • Arnold changed to a 5-4-1 formation for this clash, leaving skipper Alex Brosque and Milos Ninkovic on the bench.
  • Matt Jurman had Sydney’s best chance seven minutes from time, clipping the crossbar after his side-footed effort from close range spooned up too high.
  • The other match in the group saw Guangzhou Evergrande and Pohang Steelers play out a 0-0 draw in China.

Sydney FC's starting XI against Urawa Red Diamonds.

Central defender Zac Anderson made his first start for the club as part of the back five.

The move backfired as Anderson was at fault for Urawa’s first goal to Yuki Moto before a second half penalty converted by substitute Koroki snuffed out any hopes of a fightback.

“Because Urawa Reds at times play five players up front we decided to go for an extra defender in the first half,” Arnold said.

“The plan was to get to 60-65 minutes then to go to a 4-4-2 with two strikers and put pressure on them and I think it showed in the last 20 minutes when we dominated the game.

I warned the players beforehand that Muto is very fast and reacts well in the penalty box and it was extremely disappointing that we gifted them two goals.

The Sky Blues return home for a vital Hyundai A-League game against Melbourne Victory on Saturday night before hosting Luis Felipe Scolari’s Guanghzhou at the Sydney Football Stadium on Wednesday.

Guangzhou is the competition’s defending champions and boasts a squad with the likes of Jackson Martinez, Paulinho and Ricardo Goulart.