Loss leaves Sydney in tough spot

08 March 2018 07:09:12 EST

Sydney FC face a big struggle to qualify from their Asian Champions League group, after losing 2-0 at home to Kashima Antlers.

The Sky Blues have just one point from their first three games in Group H. They were no match for the J-League side at Allianz Stadium, conceding goals from two defensive lapses.

Graham Arnold's team had their defeat compounded by an injury to Michael Zullo and a booking for Brandon O'Neill that will leave him out of the return fixture in Japan next week.

Kashima are top of the group after picking up seven points from their three games, with Sydney FC stuck at the bottom of the table.

Arnold was forced to reshuffle his side with Milos Ninkovic unavailable due to a hamstring problem and Bobo's back complaint meaning he was unable to start.

In their absence, Matt Simon led the attack with David Carney and regulars Alex Brosque and Adrian Mierzejewski. They needed to make an early change during the game after Zullo's hamstring problem forced him to limp off.

Arnold shifted Luke Wilkshire to left-back and sent Paulo Retre on to play on the right side of defence, but the Sky Blues fell behind soon afterwards. Shoma Doi was left unmarked in the box and he sidefooted past a stranded Andrew Redmayne after Yuma Suzuki's miscued effort from a corner had found his team-mate.

O'Neill was hurt in a late tackle by Ryota Nagaki just before the interval and, although he backed out, he received his second yellow card of the tournament for a challenge on Atsutaka Nakamura.

When Bobo replaced Simon, the home side began to spark and forced goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata, who'd had little to do until that point, to make several top-shelf saves.

Mierzejewski almost came up with an equaliser when he latched onto Alex Brosque's pass, but Sogahata produced his best stop of the match.

The Antlers sealed the win three minutes from time when Naomichi Ueda headed home after Shuto Yamamoto had flicked on a corner.

Sydney FC are 4/5 to win the A-League Grand Final. The Sky Blues are 4/9 to win their next game against Brisbane Roar, who are 6/1 with the draw 15/4.

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