ACL: Sydney FC, Victory doing Australia proud

Asian football expert @JohnnyDuerden says Hyundai A-League clubs are a great news story for the region's showpiece club competition, the AFC Champions League.

Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory are close to making history in the AFC Champions League as both are within sight of a first appearance in the knockout stage.

Two more good results against Korea Republic opposition this week have pushed the rivals to within one good result of the last 16. 

Sky Blues scrape past Steelers in ACL

Victory pick up precious ACL point against Suwon

Victory drew 0-0 at Suwon Bluewings while Sydney overcame Pohang Steelers 1-0 at home.

Those three points mean that the Sky Blues are in top spot in Group H, regarded as the toughest of all the eight.

Sydney FC's Milos Ninkovic celebrates scoring against the Pohang Steelers on Matchday 4 of the ACL.

It was not a classic performance against an understrength Pohang team at Allianz Stadium but Graham Arnold won't care about that. 

All that matters is the fact that Milos Ninkovic scored the only goal of the game six minute after the break.

Arnold told reporters that it was a fitting reward for fans after an up-and-down season in the Hyundai A-League. “They’ve stuck by us through thick and thin even though they probably don’t understand what we’ve been going through, but mentally it’s been tough for everyone.”

With two games remaining, Sydney sits on nine points, two clear of Urawa Reds and, crucially, five above Pohang in third with champion Guangzhou Evergrande languishing in fourth with two points.

It is likely that Sydney can afford to lose its next two games; at home to Urawa and then away in Guangzhou. 

Graham Arnold embraces Shane Smeltz following Sydney FC's win over Pohang.

Pohang is not in the kind of form to get the two wins they need to have a chance of overhauling the Australians but then in football you never know.

To make it sure, a point at home against Urawa on April 20 will be enough to secure a place in the next stage but Arnold wants more. 

Winning the group means that the one-legged second round match is played at home against the second team in Group H rather than away at the group winners.

“We’re not there yet – I want the players to finish on top of the group,” said Arnold. “It gives us a better option. FC Seoul are a very, very good side. At the moment Shandong is in second spot, and that would probably suit us better.”

Victory has more work to do but is unbeaten in Group G, with six points from four games. Victory was under the cosh at Suwon on Wednesday and had the eye-catching goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas to thank for coming away with a 1-1 draw.

Kwon Chang-hoon put the hosts ahead on 58 minutes but Kosta Barbarouses equalised immediately.

Victory players celebrate Kosta Barbarouses' goal in their 1-1 draw with Suwon.

The point leaves Melbourne three points behind Shanghai SIPG and three above Suwon. 

The reigning Hyundai A-League champions travel to China to face Sven Goran-Eriksson's men -who impressed with a 2-0 win in Gamba Osaka this week - next time around.

Kevin Muscat's men need one win from its final two games and if it does not come in Shanghai, a home victory against Gamba on the final matchday will be enough.

With attention focusing on the nail-biting finish to the regular Hyundai A-League season, Australian football should not forget the impressive exploits of both its representatives in Asia.