Wanderers can't hold on after great start

27 February 2014 06:37:24 EST

Western Sydney Wanderers wasted an excellent start as they lost their AFC Champions League opener 3-1 to Ulsan Hyundai.

The defending A-League premiers went ahead through Brendon Santalab inside the opening minute against the Koreans at Parramatta Stadium.

But last year's K-League runners-up fought back after withstanding a period of pressure in the first 15 minutes.

They made light of the fact that their domestic season has not yet started as they scored two goals before half-time, through Kim Shin-Wook and Ko Chang-Hyun.

Kang Min-Soo scored their third goal midway through the second half to settle the Group H encounter.

Western Sydney came up with some Asian-inspired magic just seconds into the game, when Japanese marquee Shinji Ono's audacious flick-pass set up Santalab who volleyed home.

Ono's free-kick was then headed wide by Nikolai Topor-Stanley as the home side came close to doubling their lead.

But after a heavy downpour, the game changed as the Koreans equalised when Jerome Polenz and Topor-Stanley failed to clear, allowing Shin-Wook to side-foot past stranded keeper Ante Covic.

Just before the break, another high ball saw Chang-Hyun finish with a superb half-volley to give Ulsan the lead.

The Wanderers had their chances in the second period, Mark Bridge firing just over from 20 yards before they were denied a penalty when the ball appeared to strike Min-Soo's arm.

Six minutes later, defender Min-Soo poked home from close range to give the visitors a two-goal cushion.

Tony Popovic's side tried to respond, but were kept out by a well-marshalled Ulsan defence.

The Wanderers coach said: "Their goals came from set plays and a long ball from their own half into the box. We just didn't deal with that.

"You have to take your opportunities when you're on top and you also have to cherish that ball a bit better. If you keep losing the ball it makes it difficult at this level."

The Wanderers go to China in a fortnight to face Guizhou Renhe in their second ACL game, with the Chinese side having lost their group stage opener 1-0 to Kawasaki Frontale in Japan.

Newcastle Jets are 9/2 to beat Western Sydney Wanderers, who are 8/13. The Jets are 14/1 to win 1-0.

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