Sydney FC's Asian 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 organisers the AFC to halt the competition in February, Sydney had lost to Yokohama F. Marinos and drawn with Jeonbuk Motors, Thursday’s defeat leaving them with an uphill battle for survival in an extremely tough group.
Shanghai SIPG on the other hand were playing only their first match which would definitely give them confidence as they emulated their city rivals Shanghai Shenhua who too had accounted for an Australian side, Perth Glory, by a similar margin on Wednesday in Group F.
SIPG have made the knockout phase of the tournament in all their 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 who held sway in the initial moments with Kosta Barbarouses wasting a precious opportunity to score in the fifth minute after a through pass from Trent Buhagiar.
Barbarouses however made amends in the eighth minute, 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.
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 their lead, Barbarouses missing the target with a header from close in the 55th minute.
SIPG finally equalised in the 63rd minute thanks to an excellent Aaron Mooy cross that found the Sydney defence on the wrong foot allowing Li to score with a header.
In the 79th minute, 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 who meet Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors next on Wednesday.