Sydney FC have put themselves in the box seat to progress to the knock-out stages of the AFC Champions League (ACL) after recording a vital 1-0 away win over the Pohang Steelers on Wednesday night.
A classy first-half strike from Chris Naumoff settled the contest at the Steelyard in South Korea against a Pohang outfit that hadn’t conceded in their last five ACL matches.
The win takes the Sky Blues to six points in their Group H as they surged to the top of the standings pending the result between Guangzhou Evergrande and the Urawa Reds in China.
Graham Arnold made seven changes to the side that lost 3-1 to Wellington on the weekend, with Matt Simon partnering George Blackwood up front in a 4-4-2 formation.
Shots on goal were hard to come by in a cagey opening as both teams showed a reluctance to commit bodies forward, with set-pieces looking the most likely avenue to goal.
The Steelers had a great chance to open the scoring on the half-hour mark when Kim Dae-Ho was able to pick out Lazar Veselinovic with a cross but Ali Abbas was on hand to clear his header off the line.
Instead it was the visitors that would make the breakthrough just before half-time when George Blackwood slid a fortuitous ball between a couple of Steelers defenders, with Naumoff on hand to blast home from the back post.
The three-time Asian club champions made a double change at the break as they tried to get a foothold on the match but failed to test goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic in the second stanza.
Instead Pohang finished the match with just one shot on target in a disappointing display as Naumoff’s first goal in continental competition proved decisive.
After notching back-to-back wins in the ACL Sydney FC will now look forward to consecutive home fixtures as they endeavour to progress from the group stage for the first time in the club’s history.