A brave performance by a young Sydney FC NPL team was not enough to see off a star-studded Shanghai Shenhua with the Sky Blues going down 2-0 in the final fixture of the Free Trade Port International Football Tournament in Haikou City, China on Monday.
Sydney conceded with only eight minutes on the clock when former West Ham, Newcastle United & Chelsea striker Demba Ba deflected a second phase ball from a corner kick into the net for a 1-0 lead.
The early set back seemed to spark Sydney FC into action and some penetrating runs down the flanks by William Mutch and Jackson Bandiera saw them get in behind the Shanghai defence and create some half chance opportunities.
Jerry Skotadis was played through in the middle of the park before he slipped the ball out wide to striker Jordi Swibel but his shot rifled into the side netting.
Despite their possession Shanghai were unable to make any inroads into the Sydney defence and the sides went to the break with the Chinese Super League outfit holding a slender 1-0 advantage.
The second half saw Sydney dominate passages of play and they went close several times with Cameron Devlin and Daniel Maskin causing headaches for a tiring Shanghai but the ball just wouldn’t fall for the gutsy Sky Blues.
With a playing roster valued at $35.7MAUD and boasting internationals such as Demba Ba (Senegal), Oscar Romero (Paraguay), Fredy Guarin (Colombia) along with several Chinese national players, many thought Shanghai would run away with the match, however a determined Sydney FC made them fight for the entire 90 minutes.
Shanghai doubled their lead in the 88th minute when Paraguay international Oscar Romero scored on the counter as Sydney FC pushed forward for an equaliser to seal the result 2-0.
Head Coach Rob Stanton, was very proud of all his players and the effort they put in over the two matches in trying conditions.
“They kept their international players plus a few Chinese national players on the park for the full game against our young team which just shows the respect these boys earned and deserved,” he said.
“Our players held their own and even dominated in stages. I’m very proud of this group and how they competed in the tournament,” he added.
In the final wash Sydney FC finished third in the tournament on goal difference with Newcastle Jets taking home the winner’s prize after they defeated Changchun Yatai FC 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out after their match ended 1-1 at full time.
However, with the Sky Blues and Jets representing Team Australia both clubs lifted he Free Trade Port trophy as the overall winners with a combined nine points while Team China finished with three points.
Sydney FC XI – Duro Dragicevic (Mitch Evans); William Mutch (Daniel Blachura); Patrick Flottmann; Liam McGing; Jackson Bandiera (Joel King); Andrea Agamemnonos (Patrick Scibilio); Jerry Skotadis; Sam McIllhatton; Luke Ivanovic (Daniel Maskin); Cameron Devlin; Jordi Swibel (Jeremy Cox)
Sydney FC return home on Tuesday morning and will face Manly United in their Round 18 NPL Men’s clash at Cromer Park, Cromer on Wednesday 11th July 7:30pm kick off.
-By Michael Swibel