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Roar, Wanderers crash out of ACL

Soccer

Western Sydney’s Asian Champions League campaign is effectively over after a 6-1 shellacking at the hands of Urawa Red Diamonds, their biggest loss in Asia.

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Five days after their A-League season ended in Brisbane, the Wanderers were outclassed in Japan, repeatedly ripped apart at Saitama Stadium in reminiscent fashion of their opening 4-0 loss in Campbelltown.

Despite a mini second-half fightback underpinned by Jumpei Kusukami’s first goal since January, Tony Popovic’s side remain tied to the bottom of Group F with one match remaining against Shanghai SIPG.

The Wanderers needed not only a win against the group leaders but a hatful of goals to remain even an outside chance of progressing as one of the top two teams.

The goals did come on Wednesday, just not at the right end, as Popovic’s experimental three-man defence proved no match for the diligence and ruthless attack of the J-League leaders.

So pinned down were the Wanderers in the first half they didn’t register a single shot until the 35th minute, by which time Urawa had 11, including two goals.

The first was a clean 14th-minute strike from Takahiro Sekine, found by Yuki Muto in far too much space.

Four minutes later, Yoshiaki Komai was afforded equally generous time and territory to deliver a precise through ball that Slovenian striker Zlatan Ljubijankic poked home to double the lead.

There was little answer from the visitors bar one of numerous blazing runs by Scott Neville, deployed as a wing-back, to set up Brendon Santalab for a header that smacked into the crossbar.

The moment was all too fleeting, and before the halftime whistle Komai was on the assist again for Tadanari Lee in a smooth play made to look all too easy.

Santalab could have had a hat-trick by the time he spurned another opportunity after the break but Jumpei pulled one back in his home country via a delightful chip over Reds goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.

That sparked life in the visitors and they briefly got back in the match, until Rafael Silva put away a late brace with superb control.

With the result already beyond doubt, Silva combined beautifully with injury-time scorer Shinzo Koroki to finish off the massacre and take the Wanderers’ goals conceded tally to 20 from five games.

“It’s very clear they have a fantastic team in all areas of the park,” Popovic said.

“And when they don’t have the ball they’re very aggressive in their pressing.

“It was a great experience for us to play them but we’re disappointed with the scoreline.”

Meanwhile, Brisbane Roar could be down to their third-choice goalkeeper for their A-League semi-final after Jamie Young was injured in a 3-0 defeat to Muangthong United that similarly ended their AFC Champions League hopes.

The Roar cannot make it out of their group despite a gallant effort in Thailand from a second-string side fielded by coach John Aloisi, who has saved most of his best players for Sunday’s grand final qualifier against Melbourne Victory.

But the biggest concern surrounds Young, who was forced off after suffering a large, deep cut to his arm last night in a nasty collision with the goalpost as Muangthong scored their 37th-minute opener.

Former Newcastle United striker Xisco deftly headed home Tristan Do’s cross via the upright, into which Young clattered as he tracked the flight of the ball through the air.

The 31-year-old, who came into the team after first-choice goalkeeper Michael Theo injured his knee last week, appeared to catch his elbow on a dangerously-exposed and rusty hook on the post, which was left smeared in blood.

The same goalmouth was also inspected at length by officials before the match who found the net was not properly secured, leading kick-off to be delayed by five minutes.

Youngster Tomislav Bilic was brought on for Young, who could be in doubt for Sunday’s clash with Victory at AAMI Park if the wound is as serious as it appeared to be and doesn’t heal in time.

The Asian Football Confederation will be expected to come down hard on Muangthong if old or faulty equipment is found to be the cause of injury.

Brisbane Roar managing director Mark Kingsman his displeasure, noting he had been “on the phone [to authorities] constantly from the moment it happened”.

“Not good enough,” he fumed.

Aloisi rotated his squad heavily with Young, Thomas Broich, Nick D’Agostino and Luke DeVere the only starters for Brisbane who were involved in Friday’s elimination final win against Western Sydney.

Only D’Agostino played the full 90 minutes, which the Roar grew into after a meek start.

But they ultimately lacked the poise and polish of the Thai Premier League champions, who had most of the play and the better of the chances, and the visitors faded badly late on.

Chanathip Songkrasin iced the victory with his 83rd-minute goal, guaranteeing them a spot in the ACL’s knockout stage for the first time, while Teerasil Dangda delivered the final blow six minutes later.

-AAP

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