SOCCER

AFC Champions League 2016

On the brink: defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande in danger of making AFC Champions League exit

Big-spending Chinese club crash to 1-0 loss away to Urawa Reds in Japan and are now winless from four games in their group

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 9:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 11:55pm

Defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande are on the brink of a group-stage exit in the AFC Champions League after a 1-0 loss to Urawa Reds on Tuesday night left the big-spending Chinese club winless in four games in the continental competition.

It was a very difficult game for us after our loss to Adelaide last weekend but it was a big victory for us and we are in a good position to advance now
Sydney FC forward Milos Ninkovic

Yuki Muto’s header in the 52nd-minute secured Urawa’s win at home and moved the J-League club into second spot in group H with seven points, two behind Sydney FC.

Forward Milos Ninkovic scored from close range with his second touch in the 51st minute to give Sydney a 1-0 home win over Pohang Steelers, maintaining top spot and needing just one point from their last two games to ensure a spot in the second round.

Guangzhou, with two points, need wins in their last two games to have any chance of progressing.

Meanwhile, Serbian midfielder Ninkovic scored the winner in the 51st minute for Sydney’s third straight win and completed a double over the three-time ACL champions in the group.

Last month Sydney FC upset Pohang 1-0 in South Korea and their follow-up home win has put the Steelers in big trouble to advance to the knockout stages of the tournament.

After a drab opening half, Ninkovic brought the game to life when he scored at the second attempt after two Pohang defenders failed to clear the ball.

Defender Matt Jurman almost doubled the advantage when his piledriver was brilliantly saved by Kim Jin-Young in the 73rd minute.

“It was a very difficult game for us after our loss to Adelaide last weekend but it was a big victory for us and we are in a good position to advance now,” Ninkovic said.

So effective was the Sydney defence that their goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic did not make a save during the match.

Sydney FC continue to enjoy a winning run in the ACL despite a miserable A-League campaign where they are out of the running to the make the top-six play-offs this season.

The Sydneysiders next face Japanese giants Urawa Red Diamonds at home on April 20 in a match where a draw could be enough to get them through to the last 16.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse