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2018 AFC Champions League, Group Stage
  • Shouma Doi (40')
  • Naomichi Ueda (87')

Kashima Antlers sink Sydney FC deeper into Asian Champions League trouble

Matt King/Getty Images

Sydney FC have left themselves with an Asian Champions League mountain to climb after a 2-0 home defeat to J-League powerhouse Kashima Antlers.

The Group H leaders were too much for Sydney, who were left with a single point from three games.

Shoma Doi and Naomichi Ueda scored for Kashima as ex-Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic and his assistant Zeljko Kalac watched from the Allianz Stadium stands on Wednesday night.

The win lifts Kashima to seven points with Sydney hopeful Suwon Bluewings and Shanghai Shenhua draw to give their round-of-16 aspirations a boost.

"We conceded two very sloppy goals from set pieces," Sydney coach Graham Arnold said. "We probably had the two biggest moments in the game to score. When you take those big moments, it's a totally different game."

With Milos Ninkovic out of the squad due after injuring a hamstring in the loss at Newcastle on Saturday and Bobo relegated to the bench due to a back issue, Matt Simon led the attack along with David Carney and regulars Alex Brosque and Adrian Mierzejewski.

What Sydney lacked in pace, the team at least initially made up for in defensive fortitude, and the opening exchanges were tight before Michael Zullo pulled up with a hamstring problem in the 24th minute.

Luke Wilkshire was promptly shifted to left-back and Paulo Retre introduced at right-back, just in time for Kashima to break the deadlock on 40 minutes.

Doi was left unmarked in the box to sidefoot his shot past Andrew Redmayne after Yuma Suzuki's miscued effort from a corner found his teammate.

Ryota Nagaki was lucky to get away with a late tackle just before halftime that left Brandon O'Neill struggling and triggered a heated war of words on the way down the tunnel.

Somewhat ironically, O'Neill received his second yellow card of the ACL for a challenge on Atsutaka Nakamura after the break and will be suspended for next week's rematch in Japan.

But something in Sydney sparked and with Bobo replacing Simon, Mierzejewski started to pepper the visitors' goal.

Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata, who'd had little to do until that point, made several top-shelf saves to keep the hosts at bay.

His best stopped a would-be Mierzejewski equaliser when Carney played in Brosque and the skipper squared to the Polish attacker.

But Kashima sealed the win three minutes from time when Ueda headed home after Shuto Yamamoto flicked on a corner.

"We played with great intensity and controlled the game very well," Kashima coach Go Oiwa said. "Everyone on the pitch deserves applause."

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