Sydney FC claimed their first AFC Champions League point of the 2019/20 campaign but saw victory slip through their grasp as ten-man Jeonbuk Motors struck a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw.
Han Kyo-won pounced in the 89th minute to secure a share of the Group H points for the Korea Republic champions after the Sky Blues came from behind to lead through Adam Le Fondre’s 77th-minute penalty, which saw Choi Bo-kyung sent off for handball during an almighty goalmouth scramble at Jubilee Stadium.
Trent Buhagiar had pulled the home side level with a composed finish on his first start in a Sky Blue jersey for 17 months, only six minutes after the hosts had fallen behind when Luke Brattan scored a cruel own goal on 50 minutes after an evenly-matched first half ended goalless.
Steve Corica’s side rode their luck with the scores level at 1-1 after the Green Warriors missed a pair of gilt-edged chances from close range but the home side punished the K-League title-holders as goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne launched a rapid-fire counter attack that ended when Rhyan Grant’s effort was blocked by Choi Bo-kyung's arm and the centre-half was dismissed.
But the ten-men responded positively when Brazilian substitute Murilo crashed a long-range shot back off Redmayne's post and Han Kyo-won was left with a simple tap in to pull the scores level and extend Sydney’s stretch of nine AFC Champions League matches without a win.
The Sky Blues were left ruing a missed opportunity to record a first home win in the competition since 2016 after returning to the scene of their 1-0 loss to bitter rivals Western Sydney Wanderers only five days earlier, while Jeonbuk are still waiting to start their K-League title-defence as the kick-off of the 2020 campaign has been delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak in the Korea Republic.
The home side showed no signs of a Sydney Derby hangover in Kogarah with Le Fondre and Harry Van der Saag drilling over in the opening five minutes, while goalkeeper Redmayne gathered a low effort from the former Premier League star of Cardiff City and Wigan Athletic, Kim Bo-Kyung.
The Korea Republic champions dialled up the pressure with Lee Seung-gi heading Han Kyo-won’s delivery straight at Redmayne from close range, while South African striker Lars Veldwijk dragged an effort wide in the 15th minute. But Sydney FC continued to trouble the away side as Buhagiar skewed a clear-cut chance wide after Le Fondre had turned over possession.
Lee Seung-gi threatened again on 35 minutes but Rhyan Grant threw a crucial block at the far post to concede a corner, and five minutes later Sydney responded when Van der Saag sent a shot skidding wide from Le Fondre’s smart touch, and the sides went into the sheds locked at half-time, with little to separate the teams in an evenly-matched 45 minutes.
Jeonbuk came out firing after the interval but the Korea Republic outfit snuck ahead on 50 minutes when Hong Jeong-ho’s near post header from a corner was turned past a despairing Redmayne by Brattan’s out-stretched foot. Le Fondre slammed an attempt wide in reply before Buhagiar collected Josh King’s long throw, skipped past Choi Bo-kyung and slotted a shot past Song Bum-keun to bring Sydney level only six minutes after they had fallen behind.
Corica’s side were hanging on as substitute Cho Kyu-seong missed a sitter from six yards after attacking a sweeping move by the Green Warriors on 65 minutes, and Han Kyo-won sliced an effort wide from point-blank range following excellent wing play from Japanese ace Takahiro Kunimoto. But Sydney FC launched an unbelievable 73rd-minute counter-attack that went through Redmayne, Alexander Baumjohann, Buhagiar and Le Fondre, before Grant saw his strike stopped by the hand of Choi Bo-kyung.
The Green Warriors' centre-half was dismissed and Le Fondre made no mistake from the spot, leaving Sydney 16 minutes to hang to the result. Corica's side almost got over the line until Brazilian midfielder Murilo rifled a 25-yard strike off the woodwork in the 88th minute and Han Kyo-won reacted quickest to convert the rebound and take a share of the points back to Jeonju.
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Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
Saturday, 7 March 2020
Kick off: 7.30pm (AEDT)
Venue: Marvel Stadium