Wanderers blow lead in Japan
Western Sydney's hopes of progressing in the AFC Champions League took a hit on Tuesday, as they surrendered an early lead to lose 2-1 away to Kawaski Frontale.
Western Sydney Wanderers' hopes of progressing in the AFC Champions League took a hit on Tuesday, as they surrendered an early lead to lose 2-1 away to Kawaski Frontale.
Labinot Haliti opened the scoring for the visitors in the first half at Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, before Kengo Nakamura equalised for the Japanese side in the 74th minute. Ryota Oshima secured the comeback win when he netted with six minutes to go.
The result sees the home team draw level with the Wanderers on six points in Group H, with leaders Ulsan in action away to bottom side Guizhou Renhe later in the night.
Frontale coach Yahiro Kazama made two changes from team that started last weekend's 1-0 J-League win over Nagoya Grampus, while five of the Wanderers players named in the starting XI for the 2-1 loss to Central Coast on Saturday were retained, as Tony Popovic kept faith with the same line-up that earned Western Sydney a 1-0 home win over their Japanese opponents two weeks ago.
A cagey start to the game saw Frontale dominate possession and probe for an opening, with the Wanderers content to try and hit them on the break.
The hosts should have had a penalty in the 21st minute, when a free-kick struck Anthony Golec on the arm, the match officials failing to spot the infraction. A corner was awarded instead, from which Yasuhito Morishima flashed a dangerous header across the face of goal.
Two minutes later and the Wanderers were ahead, against the run of play. Goalkeeper Yohei Nishibe flapped at and missed Dean Heffernan's corner, leaving Haliti to direct his header above a covering defender and into the roof of the net.
Frontale wasted two good chances to equalise later in the half. The first, a knockdown from a set-piece on 38 minutes, fell to Yusuki Tanaka in the centre of the penalty area, but the fullback fired his shot well over the bar.
With two minutes remaining in the half, Yoshito Okubo advanced up the right flank and into the box, reaching the byline and delivering a dangerous cutback which went begging, with no team-mate on hand to supply the killer blow.
Okubo's counterpart on the left wing also had the Wanderers defence worried, cutting inside and supplying Renato, whose powerful shot was blocked on the stroke of half-time.
Frontale picked up where they left off early in the second half, and were guilty of missing their best chance yet in the 50th minute.
Renato was the provider this time, supplying a pass to the back post where Okubo looked certain to score, but somehow conspired to direct his shot straight at Golec on the goal-line.
On the hour mark an increasingly busy Ante Covic was forced to palm clear a powerful long-range Renato free-kick.
A minute later and Frontale went closer still, Morishima's curling effort striking the cross bar with Covic beaten. But still the goal would not arrive for the home side, as Renato collected the rebound but sent another shot inches wide of the far post.
The Wanderers goalkeeper was called on again in the 64th minute, getting down smartly to deny the ubiquitous Brazilian.
Having done so well to repel the onslaught, Covic is likely to be disappointed with the nature of the equaliser he eventually conceded, allowing Nakamura's shot to squirm home at his near post after the veteran exchanged a sharp one-two with Okubo to get into a shooting position.
Frontale's intense forward pressure dropped somewhat after they drew level, and it looked for a time as if the Wanderers would hold out for a valuable draw.
Oshima had other ideas, finding space on the edge of the box and unleashing a firm drive which beat Covic and ensured the hosts gained revenge for their narrow loss in Parramatta last month.
Western Sydney proved unable to carve out an opportunity to equalise in the time remaining, and now face a tough trip to take on Ulsan in Korea on April 15.