Sydney FC toiled hard but could not cling onto a draw in Japan, suffering a 1-0 Asian Champions League defeat at the hands of J1 champions Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday night.
The match was something of a stalemate but the hosts gradually began to take control of proceedings, and eventually Sydney’s resolve was broken by an 83rd-minute Manabu Saito strike.
Sydney manager Steve Corica prioritised keeping a clean sheet over scoring, with the team defending very deep for much of the game. There were some opportunities for both sides, but they failed to penetrate with an accurate final ball in almost every situation.
As the game was heading towards a draw, substitute Saito found the back of the net with seven minutes remaining. He had enough time to take a shot after the ball bounced around the box. That goal seeped all the energy from the Sky Blues as they looked powerless to get anything close to an equaliser.
The loss, and Ulsan Hyundai’s victory elsewhere against Shanghai SIPG, mean Sydney are now floundering at the bottom of Group H, much like their Australian counterparts Melbourne Victory.
Corica’s negative mindset costs Sydney
Following the match, Corica was ruing the fact that his team could not hold on just a few more minutes for a draw. His comments suggested that he would have been happy with a draw if it was presented to him.
The negative mentality, especially after a draw last week against Ulsan, is a huge factor as to why Sydney eventually fell to the Japanese champs. When giving up all attacking intention and setting eyes solely on a draw, teams are sure to be punished for it.
Kawasaki attacked relentlessly and Sydney were content to sit back, which would have been fine if they had an attacking outlet to counter with. They did not, and the game ended with Frontale taking 20 shots compared to Sydney’s two.
When affording the opposition so many opportunities to shoot, teams will eventually score and Corica will need to change this mentality if his team wants to make any inroads in Asia’s biggest club tournament.
Especially now that they require nothing but a win against SPIG next month to get out of Group H, Sydney need to show far more intention to attack.
Focus back on the league for the Sky Blues
Although the ACL campaign has started off quite poorly for Sydney, they at least have their domestic action to look forward to.
In recent weeks they have leapfrogged arch rivals Victory to hold second place in the league, while also making an unlikely push for the premiership with current leaders Perth Glory slipping up ever so slightly.
To be fair to Sydney, the past week they have been up against some of Asia’s best teams in Ulsan and Kawasaki, so it is not the worst result that they have only conceded once against them. As they return to Australia, the learning experiences against these quality sides will only help their cause in the league.
Forwards Reza Ghoochannejhad and Adam Le Fondre have found some fluency when playing together and those combinations could be crucial in their run-in. Andrew Redmayne, who is one of the main reasons the score was kept to 1-0 and not something worse, is having an excellent season and is a reliable man to have in between the sticks.
After wobbles against Central Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar, Corica’s men look to finally be on the right track and if they can retain their second spot, it will help their cause in winning back the championship from Victory.
As per my tweet earlier today. Appears Josh Brillante is headed to Korea pic.twitter.com/UcthubhrJY
— Ray Gatt (@Gatty54) March 13, 2019
Brillante distraction does not help Sydney’s cause
It was rumoured throughout the day that Sydney midfielder Josh Brillante’s head was turned by an attractive offer from K-League side Pohang Steelers. Sydney’s social media team then came out and announced his exclusion from the squad was directly related to this situation.
It seems odd that Sydney thought this would be the best way to manage the recent events. Surely this could have been dealt with behind closed doors and Corica could deflect any possible questions in his press conference?
It is also curious that a player like Brillante would not be able to maintain his professionalism for a match. It just does not sound right.
By announcing this on social media just before a crucial ACL clash, Sydney have effectively hung Brillante out to dry while the team’s management is also shown in a poor light.
These types of distractions for matches as important as Wednesday’s make a hard task even harder, and the whole Sydney management team will hopefully have learned how to better deal with this type of issue if it arises again.