A late goal gave Western Sydney Wanderers a second dose of football heartbreak in three days, with a 3-1 Asian Champions League (ACL) away loss on Wednesday to Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Backing up after their extra-time A-League grand final loss to Brisbane on Sunday, the Wanderers fell behind 2-0 to two quality second-half strikes from Naoki Ishihara.
Striker Tomi Juric gave the Wanderers hope in the two-leg round-of-16 tie after earning and converting a 77th-minute penalty.
However, disaster struck in the first minute of stoppage time, when a Kosei Shibasaki free-kick a few metres in from the left touchline went directly into the net after a mix up between goalkeeper Ante Covic and captain and central defender Michael Beauchamp.
Sanfrecce had 17 attempts to seven against a much-changed Wanderers side in which Covic and defender-midfielder Matthew Spiranovic were the only players from their grand final side to retain a starting spot.
The Wanderers must win 2-0 in next Wednesday’s second leg in Sydney to advance to the quarter-finals.
“I think overall we put in a great effort,” Beauchamp said.
“Some great finishes from them, but easy goals to concede – a couple came from mistakes from ourselves initially.
“But we’ve got next week to look forward to now. We’ve got the important away goal, so we get two on home soil and go through.”
The Wanderers survived heavy pressure in the first 10 minutes, but were the more dangerous side in the last 15 minutes of the half.
Spiranovic poked one shot wide, Juric shot over from an acute angle and Labinot Haliti had two chances, one of which was on target.
Ishihara’s rasping right-foot 51st-minute drive from just inside the penalty area gave Covic no chance.
Then 14 minutes later, just after Wanderers coach Tony Popovic brought on Japanese hero Shinji Ono and Youssouf Hersi, Ishihara produced a sublime first-time chip over Covic to double Sanfrecce’s lead.
Juric secured the precious away goal, although replays suggested he might have been a little fortunate, with the foul appearing to occur outside the penalty area.
He smashed the spot kick home, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way, to give the Wanderers some hope despite the concession of a third goal.