Lavicka: Sky Blues missed stars

Sydney FC coach Vitezslav Lavicka has conceded the absence of four his most important players made it almost impossible for his side to beat the Kashima Antlers in their AFC Champions League clash on Wednesday night.

Sydney FC coach Vitezslav Lavicka has conceded the absence of four his most important players made it almost impossible for his side to beat the Kashima Antlers in their AFC Champions League clash on Wednesday night.

The Sky Blues' hopes of qualifying for the knockout phase of the competition took a significant blow as they were crushed 3-0 at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Sydney were without suspended skipper Terry McFlynn, while Nicky Carle, David Williams and Sebastian Ryall all missed the match through injury.

Swiss defender Stephan Keller also picked up an ankle injury early in the first half and didn't return after the half-time break.

While Lavicka said his players had given maximum effort against the J-League giants, he lamented the absence of some of his stars for the club's first ever home loss in the competition.

"We can't complain but everyone can see that it was different quality on the pitch," Lavicka said.

"We started the game well, we played organised, but the game was decided late in the first half and early in the second half."

"The boys worked hard but the quality was different. Without the best quality players it's difficult to play."

"Full credit to the young players on the park, it was a big step for them to get experience for international club football."

The Sky Blues started stronger than the visitors but were undone just before the break through a goal to impressive Kashima midfielder Takuya Nozawa.

Further goals to Brazilian Gabriel and striker Kohrogi Shinzoh in the second half completed the rout to send the Antlers into a share of top spot in Group H alongside Suwon on five points. Sydney are three points further back.

While the Antlers now look certainties to qualify for the knockout phase with their final three games to be played at home, Sydney FC will finish the group stage with three straight games on the road.

Despite the difficult road ahead Sky Blues boss Vitezslav Lavicka still believes his side can turn things around, starting with Shanghai Shenhua next week.

"We've played three games in a row at home and we've only got two points but we won't give up the current situation," he said.

"We'll still try to pick up points away, especially now in China."

Sydney skipper Stuart Musialik paid tribute to Kashima's performance and said they were a step up in class from the other two teams in the group.

"They were just that little bit sharper at pressuring us which the other teams (Suwon and Shanghai) didn't do," he said.

"They were good at keeping possession and were very mobile for each other and really good in tight areas which we struggled to cope with."

Sydney will get McFlynn back for their next match against Shanghai next Tuesday but Carle, Ryall, Williams and Keller were all outside chances of playing in China.