Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adelaide United finish top of Group H but have Japanese side to thank

Adelaide United lost 1-0 at home at Hindmarsh Stadium this evening to Shandong Luneng in their Group H match in the Asian Champions League.

But, Adelaide still finished on top of Group H because Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat Pohang Steelers 4-3 in Japan the same evening.

Finishing top of the group gives Adelaide hosting rights for their first match in the final-16 section of the competition on 12 May.

It was the third game in a row that Adelaide has failed to score. They dominated possession and had four times as many shots as their Chinese opponents. Shandong managed just one corner, whereas Adelaide had at least half a dozen.

These two sides first met in the Asian Champions League in 2007, but captain Travis Dodd was the only Adelaide player to have featured then.

Five of the Shandong side played in that 2007 match.

Shandong came to Adelaide without five of their first-team regulars tonight and won with a counter-attack and clinical finish in the 53rd minute by Li Wei.

Shandong gained possession in their own half and in two short moves sent Li Wei away on the right. He cut inside and beat Robbie Cornthwaite before unleashing a magnificent left-foot shot from the edge of the box beyond Eugene Galekovic and inside the far post.

Cassio was Adelaide’s best player, while Marcos Flores also showed some superb skills.

Adelaide’s first chance came on the quarter-hour when Cassio crossed from the left, only to see Sergio Van Dijk loop his header onto the top of the net.

The home side might have had a penalty in the 24th minute when Matthew Leckie was tripped inside the box, but the referee from Bahrain waved play on.

A minute later, Shandong created an excellent chance when their Lebanon international Roda Antar fed Li Wei inside the box, but the striker directed his shot straight at Galekovic.

In the 29th minute, Paul Reid went on a run through the middle, but his shot, which took the slightest of deflections, sailed high over the bar. The corner came to nothing.

Leckie was cautioned in the 38th minute and will miss the next game.

Three minutes after the interval, Adelaide squandered the chance for an equaliser in a goalmouth scrimmage, the ball eventually being cleared by Zheng Zheng.

Five minutes later, Shandong took the lead and Adelaide were on the back foot and wondering what happened.

A minute after the goal, Dodd had a half-chance, but his half-volley with the outside of the right foot from a left-wing cross cleared the bar.

Leckie drove wide of the far right-hand post in the 57th minute as Adelaide hunted desperately for an equaliser.

On the hour, Cassio crossed another beautiful ball into the penalty area, but when Flores’s header was blocked, the ball fell to Reid, who powered his shot wide.

The irrepressible Cassio floated another dangerous cross from the left towards the far post in the 70th minute, but the chance went begging when Dodd headed the ball into team-mate Van Dijk from close range.

Adelaide had two more chances, Dodd shooting wide in the 71st minute and Cassio having a firm free-kick well saved by the visitors’ goalkeeper, Yang Cheng.

Shandong’s Li Wei, Gao Di and Antar were booked, as were Adelaide’s Leckie, Adam Griffiths and Van Dijk.

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