A disappointing Asian Champions League campaign has ended with a moment to saviour for Western Sydney as the Wanderers claimed a major scalp, defeating one of Asia’s wealthiest teams, Shanghai SIPG.
With nothing more than pride on the line, the Wanderers bowed out of the tournament with their heads held high after securing a dramatic late 3-2 win over Shanghai to ensure the 2014 champions’ Asian pedigree was not completely tarnished in 2017.
Inspired by Japanese winger Jumpei Kusukami, Wanderers came back after conceding the fastest goal in this year’s tournament and the third quickest in ACL history to stun the visitors, who left Brazilian stars Oscar and Hulk at home for the dead rubber.
Shanghai winger Wu Lei unleashed a thunderbolt 21 seconds after kick-off that stunned the Wanderers, piercing a static back line and thundering into the back of the net.
Another hefty defeat appeared on the cards for the Wanderers who had conceded 20 goals in their first five group games.
However, the volatile Kusukami had other ideas and scored an individual goal barely two minutes later.
By the sixth minute, Wanderers had the lead. Kusukami went from scorer to creator, dribbling past Wang Jiajie to find Steven Lustica who emphatically slammed the ball into the roof of the net, beating Sun Le at his near post.
In the absence of Hulk and Oscar, Shanghai’s other Brazilian was a constant threat for Western Sydney’s makeshift defence. Elkeson dashed a first-time shot narrowly wide, but the big centre-forward had to wait just another minute before drawing the visitors level. Beating Wanderers’ Aritz Borda to the ball, he was brought down by the Wanderers defender to earn a penalty. Elkeson took it himself, slotting straight down the middle to equalise before the break.
If the opening half held the frenetic energy that came with the freedom of a dead-rubber, the second was far more pedestrian. Western Sydney carved open several half chances but couldn’t find the finishing touch to restore their lead.
Their 2017 Asian foray appeared to be ending in a fashion befitting of their campaign until Kusukami and Martinez produced something special to steal the win.
The Argentine found his Japanese teammate with a deft lob, before Kusukami’s chip over oncoming goalkeeper Sun Le was turned in by substitute Jaushua Sotirio.
The 5271 fans remained on their feet to farewell the club’s last inaugural player as Shannon Cole came off in the 90th minute having played his last game for the Wanderers.