Simon secures ACL point for Sydney FC
A Matt Simon goal has kept alive Sydney FC's slim chances of progress to the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League.
The towering front-man's 70th minute header cancelled out a first-half strike from group leaders Kashima Antlers, earning the Sky Blues a 1-1 draw at Kashima Soccer Stadium.
Sydney FC had a few late chances to claim all three points but were unable to take them.
The result means the Sky Blues must win their remaining two pool games against Suwon Bluewings and Shanghai Shenhua to give themselves a chance of progressing to the knockout rounds.
STORY OF THE MATCH
EARLY CHANCE: A low cross from Kashima evaded the Sky Blues' defence but they scrambled to block an effort on goal and cleared the danger.
INCHES AWAY: Josh Brillante broke clear in midfield but underhit a pass aimed for a marauding Alex Brosque
ADRIAN IN THE ACTION: Brosque flicked on to Adrian Mierzejewski who saw his space on the edge of the area closed down before he could get a shot away.
SUZUKI'S SHOT: Young striker Yuma Suzuki robbed Aaron Calver of possession in the penalty area but his shot flew over the crossbar.
OPENING GOAL: A defensive mix-up allowed Mu Kanazaki to head home at the far post.
ALMOST AN EQUALISER: With half-time approaching, Mierzejewski evaded a pair of defenders before playing in Anthony Kalik who couldn't direct a shot on target.
LAST DITCH DEFENDING: With Suzuki through on goal, Aaron Calver's strong challenge kept the scoreline at 1-0.
MORE SKY BLUES PRESSURE: Mierzejewski was in the action again, dropping the ball onto Luke Wilkshire's head, but his ball back across goal couldn't find a team-mate.
SIMON LEVELS IT: Wilkshire was again involved with his cross to the far post met by a marauding Matt Simon who headed home the equaliser.
BROSQUE BRUSHES THE POST: Mierzejewski drove into the heart of the Kashima defence before sliding a ball through for Brosque whose low driven shot just evaded the right-hand upright.
SIMON DENIED A BRACE: Played through by Brosque, Simon slipped at the vital moment and couldn't get a meaningful shot on goal.
LATE CHANCE: Simon tried to turn provider for Mierzejewski who almost nicked the ball away from the Kashima Antler goalkeeper's hands.
Mu Kanazaki, Kashima Antlers 1-0, 27'
Miscommunication between Alex Brosque and Josh Brillante saw the ball headed directly to the Japanese international midfielder who made no mistake, steering home a firm header.
Matt Simon, Sydney FC 1-1, 70'
The popular striker netted his first goal in two years to draw the Sky Blues level, leaping highest at the far post to head home Luke Wilkshire's floated cross.