Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande and Jackson Martinez stumble to Sydney FC
Despite efforts of 42 million euro signing from Atletico Madrid, Chinese visitors faltered in defence as they have just one point from two games in group H
Guangzhou Evergrande went down 2-1 to Sydney FC in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday despite the efforts of US$45 million signing Jackson Martinez, with their coach Luiz Felipe Scolari saying the better team won.
Serbian substitute Milos Dimitrijevic scored the winner two minutes from time to leave Guangzhou, champions of Asia for two of the last three years and China for the last five, with a solitary point from their first two matches in group H.
“Sydney deserved to win this match, we had some problems in our defence tonight because we always want to attack,” Brazilian World Cup-winning coach Scolari told reporters.
“The difference between the two teams tonight was that Sydney FC have good quality, are very strong physically, they made a lot of opportunities. Good team.”
The defeat also left Guangzhou striker Martinez, who signed for €42 million (HK$357 million) from Atletico Madrid last month, without a goal in his first three matches.
Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold hailed a fantastic performance from his team, but said Martinez would thrive in Asian football.
READ MORE: Jackson Martinez gets empty feeling in Guangzhou Evergrande debut in top regional club competition
“I tell you what, I was terrified every time he came near the ball, he showed such high quality,” he said.
“We tried to come up with a game plan to starve him of possession ... he’s a fantastic player and it’s a privilege to have those kind of people here.”
With such transfer fees come great expectations and the sea of red-shirted Chinese fans that filled one end of the Sydney Football Stadium were clearly anticipating that the tall Colombia international would finally get on the scoresheet.
It was Sydney FC, whose entire wage bill comes in at less than US$4 million a year, who took the lead in the 17th minute, however, when Guangzhou’s frailty in the air allowed Robert Stambolziev to slot the ball home from close range.
The Asian champions should have equalised three minutes later when Sebastian Ryall tugged Martinez down in the box only for Croatian goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic to save Brazilian Ricardo Goulart’s penalty down to his left.
The visitors were level five minutes later, though, when winger Huang Bowen broke down the right flank and, ignoring Martinez in the middle, went for goal, with Ryall helping the ball into the net.
Just after the half-hour mark, Martinez showed a flash of skill as he beat his marker on the right flank and cut inside another defender to make room for the shot, only to curl the ball wide of the post.
A penalty appeal when Martinez went down on the edge of the box at the start of the second half went unheeded and for much of the rest of the match he watched as the long balls launched towards him were dealt with by the Sydney defence.
Sydney refused to let Guangzhou dictate the play and, with two minutes left, they broke down the right and Dimitrijevic took one touch from Dave Carney’s pass before rifling the ball into the net to snatch the points.