Sky Blues finish with a loss

Sydney FC brought the curtain down on their AFC Champions League campaign with a 2-1 loss to Kashima Antlers in Tokyo on Tuesday evening.

Sydney FC brought the curtain down on their AFC Champions League campaign with a 2-1 loss to Kashima Antlers in Tokyo on Tuesday evening.

Despite knowing their hopes of qualifying for the tournament's knockout phase were over, Sydney took the lead through a header from outgoing defender Matt Jurman after 26 minutes, but Kashima equalised with a strike from Yuya Osako.

And when Takuya Nozawa fired an 84th-minute free kick through the defensive wall and past an outstretched Liam Reddy, Sydney were resigned to another fruitless away trip in the tournament.

With their qualification in the knockout stage already assured, a win for Kashima would have given them a better chance to claim top spot in Group H, ensuring a home round-of-16 match, but the Japanese side appeared lacklustre from the outset at Tokyo's National Olympic Stadium.

Sydney missed a good chance to take the lead in the second minute when Bruno Cazarine found himself unmarked in the box, but Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata did well to stop the striker's left-foot shot.

Nick Carle was denied by another good save from Sogahata on the 11th-minute mark after a sensational move with Scott Jamieson, and Kashima were unlucky four minutes later when a great run from Kenji Koyano played in Nozawa, but Reddy was off his line quickly to save.

Koyano's pace and skill were giving the visiting rearguard headaches, but Sydney took the lead after 26 minutes when Jamieson found Jurman with a great corner and the big defender powered a header home.

A bizarre mix-up from Kashima's restart saw Sydney on the offensive immediately, but Carle pulled his shot wide.

Veteran Kashima midfielder Koji Nakata had to be replaced by Masahiko Inoha shortly afterwards, suffering what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury.

With both sides struggling to maintain possession, scoring chances were few and far between for the remainder of the half, although Kashima came closest to finding the net when a couple of long-range efforts were well held by Reddy.

Kashima dominated the opening minutes of the second period, pinning Sydney inside their defensive half, and they were back on level terms just after the hour mark thanks to a fine goal from Osako.

Inoha galloped down the left flank and fired a deep cross that was nodded back into the penalty area by Brazilian substitute Fellype Gabriel, with 20-year-old striker Osako perfectly placed to blast a volley past Reddy.

Kashima hit the front when Nozawa fired a low long-range effort through Sydney's brittle wall, and despite the best efforts of Reddy, he could not keep the ball out.

The win means Kashima will be sweating on the result of Group H's final game, with the Japanese side needing Shanghai Shenhua to take points off Suwon Bluewings to secure top spot.