|Vũ Văn Thanh opened the score for HAGL early in the first half. — VNA/VNS Photo|
HCM CITY — Hoàng Anh Gia Lai Football Club could only manage a draw against Sydney FC at Thống Nhất Stadium in their second group stage match of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday, despite taking an early lead.
Kiatisuk Senamuang's men, having caused trouble to top Japanese side Yokohama F. Marinos in the opening match and lost by only one goal, were determined to make the home supporters proud with their performance, which their owner Đoàn Nguyên Đức branded as "beautiful football".
Trần Minh Vương replaced Brazillian forward Baiano who was disappointing in the match against Marinos - the only change in the starting line-up for HAGL.
The match started off at a slow pace, with Sydney FC letting the home side control the ball in their own half. However, the first dangerous chance came for the A-League side in the fourth minute when Luciano Narsingh was through in the box. Narsingh fell but the referee waived away the penalty calls. Moments later, his teammate Le Fondre was also impeded inside the box by keeper Huỳnh Tuấn Linh but again, no penalty was awarded.
HAGL replied with chances for Nguyễn Công Phượng and Nguyễn Phong Hồng Duy, but their shots were far from the target. But the efforts in attack by coach Kiatisuk and his men were eventually fruitful, when right-back Vũ Văn Thanh opened the scoring with a screamer from outside the box.
The men in white piled on the pressure and could have doubled their lead before half-time when Washington Brandao's cross on the 45th minute was deflected by Alex Wilkinson towards the Sydney FC goal, but keeper Andy Redmayne was quick to react and punched the ball away.
Having the psychological advantage and the lead, HAGL kept on pressing forward and created chances for Phượng, whose solo dribble efforts in the 56th minute opened the space for Brandao to fire a powerful shot from just outside the box, but his effort went wide.
Four minutes later, Sydney equalised after Trent Buhagiar headed in a perfect cross inside the box. The replay showed that the forward was offside, but since the group stage was not equipped with VAR, the goal was allowed.
Sydney FC could have completed their comeback, when Narsingh's shot in the 64th minute almost went in, but Nguyễn Văn Việt was able to clear it on the line.
In the last ten minutes, Sydney once again handed control back to HAGL, which created a golden chance for Nguyễn Văn Toàn in the 85th minute. Toàn was through on goal, beat Redmayne and put the ball into the net but the offside flag was up. The match ended with a 1-1 draw.
With this draw, HAGL claimed their first point in the group stage, but still sit at the bottom of Group H, and will have lots to change before their match against Korean Champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Friday. — VNS