Shanghai SIPG extends Sydney's winless run in ACL

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Sydney FC's AFC Champions League winless run grows to 10 as a Li Shenglong brace helps Shanghai SIPG bounce back from a goal down to clinch a 2-1 victory in their Group H clash.
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Shanghai SIPG extends Sydneys winless run in ACL
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Midfielder Li Shenglong celebrates scoring Shanghai SIPG's first goal against Sydney FC during their AFC Champions League Group H match at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday. SIPG won 2-1.

Sydney FC's AFC Champions League winless run grew to 10 on Thursday after a second-half brace from Li Shenglong helped Shanghai SIPG bounce back from a goal down to clinch a 2-1 victory in their Group H clash.

The Sky Blues had landed in Qatar hoping to end a nine-match streak without victory but instead found themselves at the bottom of their group after suffering their second defeat in three matches of this year’s tournament.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic forced organizers, the Asian Football Confederation, to halt the competition in February, Sydney had lost to Japan's Yokohama F Marinos and drawn with South Korea's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Thursday’s defeat leaving it with an uphill battle for survival in an extremely tough group.

Marinos top the group with six points.

Shanghai SIPG, on the other hand, was playing only its first match which would definitely give the Chinese Super League side confidence as it emulated its city rival Shanghai Greenland Shenhua which, too, had accounted for an Australian side, Perth Glory, by a similar margin on Wednesday in Group F.

SIPG has made the knockout phase of the tournament in all its previous five outings and never appeared short on confidence despite falling behind in the first half against Sydney at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

It was Sydney though which held sway in the initial moments with Kosta Barbarouses wasting a precious opportunity to score in the 5th minute after a through pass from Trent Buhagiar.

Barbarouses, however, made amends in the 8th, clearing the way for Buhagiar to score with a left-footed shot with a neat return pass after a long ball from goalkeeper Thomas Heward-Belle.

Shanghai SIPG extends Sydneys winless run in ACL
Reuters

Shanghai SIPG's Hulk in action with Sydney FC's Paulo Retre (left) and Calem Nieuwenhof during their AFC Champions League match in Doha on Thursday.

The Aussies should have consolidated their position a few minutes later from a corner but Benjamin Warland’s header hit the post and Paulo Retre sent the rebound wide of the mark.

Sydney continued to hold the upper hand in the second half but failed to extend its lead, Barbarouses missing the target with a header from close in the 55th.

SIPG finally equalized in the 63rd, thanks to an excellent Aaron Mooy cross that found the Sydney defense on the wrong foot allowing Li to score with a header.

In the 79th, Li was in the thick of the action again, his low diving header from a Yu Hai cross hitting the upright before trickling in, leaving Heward-Belle flummoxed.

There was more agony for the goalkeeper as he was sent off during added time for handling the ball outside the box, capping another forgettable outing for the Sydney side which meets Jeonbuk next on Wednesday.

The centralized tournament features 15 teams from east Asia playing in a biosecure bubble in the Qatari capital to complete the 2020 edition of the continental club championship.

The remaining group matches will be played until December 4, with the knockouts starting two days later. Doha will also host the final on December 19, with Iranian side Persepolis having already qualified from the western region.

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