Roar coach John Aloisi believes Football Federation Australia will be forced to re-examine A-League scheduling because they have made it “virtually impossible” for teams to compete in the AFC Champions League.
Playing for the fourth time in 11 days, the Roar again looked heavy-legged and coach Aloisi’s injury-stretched team was duly punished by the K-League outfit at the Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium last night.
It leaves Brisbane still searching for their first goal and first win in Group E and continues the nightmare run of A-League teams in the tournament this year. Western Sydney’s 5-1 defeat to Shanghai SIPG followed their 4-0 loss to Urawa Red Diamonds last week, while Adelaide United were dispatched 3-0 by Gamba Osaka.
And the Roar’s wretched performance may have come at a significant cost with key midfielder Thomas Kristensen forced off midway through the second half with a thigh strain.
Brisbane are already without injured defenders Luke DeVere, Daniel Bowles, Corey Brown and Connor O’Toole, but new recruit Avraam Papadopoulos should be available for the Roar’s next match, away to the Newcastle Jets on Sunday.
Having only gathered in Ulsan the day before the match, the Roar might have been lethargic but they were also completely outplayed and out-enthused.
They battled to maintain possession and conceded 13 shots on target to just two.
The results have triggered a debate in Australian football as to what can be done to help A-League clubs, who are constrained by the salary cap, compete in Asia at a time when their rivals are spending big to sign bonafide stars like Carlos Tevez, Hulk and Oscar.
Aloisi admitted the Roar were totally outplayed by Ulsan, but said the impact of playing their ninth match in little more than a month – a workload he believes has triggered some of their injuries – could not be ignored.
“This is the reality we’ve got, that the scheduling does not help us, at all,” Aloisi said.
“I’m sure FFA, after seeing our result and a few other results, will look to revisit it for next season because they’ve made it virtually impossible for not only ourselves, but the other teams.
“You don’t want to look for too many excuses, but I fully believe if we had our best side out, we could give anyone a game in Asia.
“I don’t think that’s a reflection on our league, I think it’s a reflection on our travel and the injuries we’ve had in the last month.
“Playing within 72 hours of games doesn’t help our players to recover. That’s the reality, that’s not looking for excuses.”
FFA rarely bows to requests from clubs competing in the AFC Champions League to reschedule A-League games, because of broadcasting requirements.
It has been a sore point for Aloisi, whose side tackled consecutive away trips to Shanghai, Melbourne and Perth in the space of 10 days earlier this month.
“Only a month ago we were full-strength and able to beat Shanghai Shenhua and then you come here and after a month of fixtures galore, going here there and everywhere, it catches up on you,” Aloisi said.
The Wanderers were similarly utterly outclassed by their expensively assembled hosts, whose dominant display at Shanghai Stadium demonstrated exactly the level of quality money can buy.
At the forefront of last night’s massacre were headline Brazilian trio Oscar ($88 million), Hulk ($81 million) and Elkeson ($27 million), who tore apart their A-League visitors with a goal apiece and left Tony Popovic’s 2014 champions bottom of Group F with a goal difference of -8.
Hulk was particularly outstanding, opening the scoring with a powerful third-minute header before adding three first-half assists within 10 minutes.
The former Porto and Zenit St Petersburg man combined superbly with Oscar for Shanghai’s second, trading passes before setting up the ex-Chelsea star for a first-time finish.
By the half-hour mark the Wanderers’ only reply had come via Mitch Nichols, whose quality 20th-minute strike from a low Scott Neville cross got his side back to 2-1 and gave them a brief glimmer of hope that was snuffed out just as quickly.
Five minutes later Jerrad Tyson, in goal for rested first choice Vedran Janjetovic, spilled a Hulk free-kick and allowed defender Shi Ke to tap the ball past him, before Elkeson whipped in the hosts’ fourth from close range.
Ryan Griffiths led the attacking line on starting debut as Popovic again made eight changes to his line-up to cater for its fourth game in 11 days.
But Griffiths barely had a chance to make an impact, and though Nico Martinez finally tested Shanghai gloveman Yan Junling after the break, Wu Lei completed the rout on 75 minutes.
Shanghai should have been awarded a penalty when Tyson brought Hulk down before a follow-up effort struck Neville on the arm, but both appeals were waved away.
“Tonight was a clear indication of the quality Shanghai SIPG has,” Popovic said.
“In the first half I thought we played quite well. We did very well with the ball, but every time Shanghai went forward they looked very dangerous and their quality players made the difference in the first half.”
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