Aussie pair bow out in ACL group stages

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May 06, 2015 13:50:52 UK

There was no fairytale finale for Tony Popovic and the Wanderers.

Western Sydney Wanderers were out of luck despite doing all they could to keep alive the defence of their Asian Champions League trophy.

Wanderers upset the odds to beat Group H leaders Guangzhou Evergrande 2-0 in China.

But they knew their fate was out of their hands, and their hopes of qualifying for the knockout phase were dashed by events in the other group game.

Tony Popovic’s side needed Kashima Antlers and FC Seoul to draw their match – and with 90 minutes on the clock it looked like their wishes would come true as the teams were level at 2-2.

An injury-time goal by the South Koreans, though, meant Western Sydney finished third in the group.

At least Wanderers, who endured a nightmare A-League campaign where they only just avoided the wooden spoon, bowed out of the ACL with a creditable display against a Guangzhou side who had already wrapped up top spot in the group.

Goals from Mark Bridge and Tomi Juric saw them claim the spoils in the meeting between the last two ACL champions.

Wanderers dealt well with a saturated pitch that saw the ball often sticking in puddles.

A defensive error paved the way for the visitors to go ahead 13 minutes before the interval. Kim Young Gwon missed his attempted clearance of Iacopo La Rocca’s through-ball and Bridge capitalised, turning neatly before firing just inside the upright.

The home side were denied an equaliser when defender Matthew Spiranovic dived to block Zhang Jiaqi’s shot.

La Rocca’s and Romeo Castelen’s long-range shots were kept out by Guangzhou keeper Li Shuai, but he had no chance with Juric’s late angled drive.

Meanwhile, Brisbane Roar’s disappointing season ended with a whimper as they lost their final Asian Champions League game 2-1 at home to Urawa Red Diamonds.

Roar, who won the A-League double last season, saw their finals campaign ended at the weekend when they lost to Adelaide United, who are now 3.20 to beat Sydney FC.

Brisbane had to beat J.League side Urawa to have any chance of qualifying for the ACL round of 16. Even then, they needed Suwon Bluewings to beat Beijing Guoan in the other group game and for there to be an eight-goal swing in their favour from Beijing.

Those hopes disappeared when Urawa took a 24th-minute lead through Shinzo Koroki, and substitute Yuki Moto made it 2-0 before the hour mark.

Andrija Kaludjerovic pulled a goal back 20 minutes from time in what was interim coach Frans Thijssen’s last game in charge.

Australia’s places in next year’s Asian Champions League will go to A-League premiers Melbourne Victory, who are 2.25 to win the domestic Grand Final, and runners-up Sydney FC.

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