Shanghai Shenhua 1 Sydney FC 2

Steve Corica and Ufuk Talay scored first-half wonder goals as Sydney FC kicked off its AFC Champions League Group E campaign with a 2-1 victory over China’s Shanghai Shenhua at Yuanshen Stadium.

Steve Corica and Ufuk Talay scored first-half wonder goals as Sydney FC kicked off its AFC Champions League Group E campaign with a 2-1 victory over China’s Shanghai Shenhua at Yuanshen Stadium.

The temperature in China’s largest city was freezing but Sydney FC, playing its first-ever match in Asia’s top club competition and also making its debut under Branko Culina, warmed to its task immediately.

Only eight minutes had elapsed when David Carney and Corica combined to put Sydney FC ahead in spectacular style. Carney’s left-foot chip found the untracked run of Corica, whose breathtaking volley fizzed past Shanghai Shenhua goalkeeper Wang Dalei.

Sydney FC doubled its advantage at the halfway point of the first half courtesy of another superb strike. David Zdrilic, who worked tirelessly throughout the game, rolled the ball right into the path of Talay, who hit a 30-metre thunderbolt into the left-hand corner.

Talay blotted his copybook when he became the first Sydney FC player to receive a caution but it could not take the gloss of what was one of the best goals of his career.

Shanghai Shenhua coach Osvaldo Gimenez made his first substitution seven minutes before the half-time break, swapping Zheng Kewei for Li Gang, but it was Sydney FC who finished the period firmly on top. Slopping defending presented Alex Brosque with a glorious chance to make it 3-0 two minutes into stoppage time but the youngster’s powerful left-foot drive clipped the outside of the post and went behind for a goal kick.

A goalmouth scramble and three corners straight after the resumption could have resulted in a Shanghai Shenhua goal but Clint Bolton and his defence, led impeccably by Sydney FC skipper Mark Rudan, kept the home side at bay. But Shanghai Shenhua was starting to dictate affairs and its captain, Jiang Kun, went close to pulling one goal back when his free kick flashed past Bolton’s far post with the Sydney FC custodian beaten.

It took Sydney FC 18 minutes to muster a worthwhile effort in the second half and even then Zdrilic could not hit the target. Culina had seen enough, replacing Robbie Middleby with Noel Spencer and switching Mark Milligan from central midfield to right back.

With 12 minutes remaining, Shanghai Shenhua got the goal that its second-half display deserved. Nikolai Topor-Stanley committed a foul on the edge of Sydney FC’s penalty box and, from the resulting free kick, Shanghai Shenhua substitute Xie Hui lost Spencer and powered a bullet header past Bolton. It was just reward for Shanghai Shenhua, who had struck the crossbar through Diego Alonso’s free kick five minutes earlier.

Shanghai Shenhua pushed forward in search of an equaliser but it created nothing in the way of a clear-cut chance and Sydney FC, who did not force a single corner in the match, held on to become the first Australian team to win an AFC Champions League game.

Shanghai Shenhua 1 (Xie Hui 78′)
Sydney FC 2 (Steve Corica 8′, Ufuk Talay 23′)
Date: Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Venue: Yuanshen Stadium, Shanghai
Referee: Lee Gi-young (Korea Republic)
Crowd: 8000

Shanghai Shenhua: 1. Wang DALEI, 4. Chang LIN, 5. Du WEI (captain), 8. Sergio BLANCO, 9. Diego ALONSO, 10. Fernando CORREA (16. Yu TAO 46′), 17. Sun JI, 18. Zheng KEWEI (24. Li GANG 39′), 21. Jiang KUN (20. Xie HUI 71′), 27. Mao JIANQING, 28. Qu SHAOYAN.

Substitutes not used: 12. Zhang CHEN (gk), 3. Dong YANG, 11 Zhang XIAORUI, 13. Cheng LIANG, 15. Wang KE, 25. Yin XIFU, 29. Gao LIN, 30. Lu XIN.

Sydney FC: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Iain FYFE, 4. Mark RUDAN (captain), 6. Ufuk TALAY, 7. Robbie MIDDLEBY (5. Noel SPENCER 69′), 9. David ZDRILIC, 10. Steve CORICA, 11. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 12. David CARNEY, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 16. Mark MILLIGAN.

Substitutes not used: 23. Justin PASFIELD (gk), 3. Nikolas TSATTALLIOS, 18. Adam CASEY, 19. Luka GLAVAS.

Yellow cards: Ufuk Talay 24′, David Carney 29′, Mark Milligan 80′.