Wanderers restore Australian football pride with Shanghai win

By , Emma Kemp is a Roar Guru

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    Western Sydney have salvaged some pride from their dead-and-buried Asian Champions League campaign, defeating big-spending Shanghai SIPG 3-2 in their final group game.

    Jaushua Sotirio scored the 89th-minute winner to break a 2-2 deadlock that lasted more than an hour on Wednesday night and give the Wanderers their second win of the tournament.

    In a frantic start, the hosts found themselves down 1-0 after just 21 seconds, before racing back to a 2-1 lead five minutes later.

    It was a remarkable turnaround for Tony Popovic’s men, who copped the third-fastest goal in ACL history when Wu Lei struck from just inside the area from the kick-off.

    By the third minute Jumpei Kusukami had brought the hosts level, latching onto a Terry Antonis ball and firing home before the Japanese import set up Steven Lustica for the Wanderers’ second in the sixth minute.

    It sent the small Red and Black Bloc contingent into flare-ignited raptures at Campbelltown Stadium, where 5271 had turned out for the dead-rubber match that doubled as a farewell to departing foundation player Shannon Cole.

    “This game shows how good a group we have,” Popovic said.

    “We had nothing to play for, we lost 6-1 in our last match (against Urawa Red Diamonds) and the players could easily have taken it easy in this period.

    “But they deserved that tonight. To concede so early against such opposition and come back and win in the end is a credit to all of them.”

    Predictably, SIPG coach Andre Villas-Boas didn’t risk his star Brazilians Oscar and Hulk given his Chinese Super League giants are already safely through to the knockout stages.

    And with nothing on the line for either side, the contest was played with a jaunty freedom underpinned by brittle defence at both ends.

    Perth-bound Scott Neville was a late pullout, leaving Jonathan Aspropotamitis to play out of position at right-back.

    Aritz Borda plugged the gap in central defence, where he botched a tackle on Elkeson to concede a 23rd-minute penalty that the Brazilian striker duly converted.

    A cagier second half allowed for few openings but Jumpei notched another assist late, chipped over SIPG’s onrushing goalkeeper for Sotirio to prod home and leave their opponents to finish second in Group F.

    “The game started in a crazy way, totally unexpected,” Villas-Boas said.

    “Eventually it evened itself out. We didn’t deserved to lose. The game was coming to a finish at 2-2 and I thought that result would give us first place.”

    © AAP 2017