Melbourne City suffered late heartbreak in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday night, conceding in the 99th minute to Zhejiang who grabbed a share of the points.
The result means we finish Group H in second place and will have to wait until Wednesday night to find out if we’ve qualified for the knockout stages.
Aurelio Vidmar made two changes to his starting XI that took to the pitch in the A-League last weekend.
Jamie Maclaren was managed and named amongst the substitutes after carrying a knock through recent weeks, while Steven Ugarkovic was preferred in midfield over Alessandro Lopane.
Starting XI: 1. Jamie YOUNG (GK), 25. Callum TALBOT, 22. Curtis GOOD, 26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 8. Hamza SAKHI, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN, 11. Leo NATEL, 44. Marin JAKOLIS, 7. Mathew LECKIE (C)
Substitutes: 33. Patrick BEACH (GK), 40. James NIEUWENHUIZEN (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 4. Nuno REIS, 9. Jamie MACLAREN, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 18. Jordon HALL, 21. Alessandro LOPANE, 37. Max CAPUTO, 38. Harry POLITIDIS, 39. Emin DURAKOVIC, 46. Ben MAZZEO.
It was a relatively pedestrian opening to the contest with neither side grabbing the momentum with both hands from the outset.
City began to build into things following the quarter-hour mark, but it was Zhejiang who would craft the first real chance on goal in the 20th minute.
Some slick passing inside the area ended with Qian Jiegei firing at goal, but Callum Talbot was able to put in the all-important block to deny the goalscoring chance.
It wasn’t until the 41st minute that we’d get our first proper chance at goal, Leo Natel finding Tolgay Arslan alone at the top of the area before the midfielder’s shot was blocked and out for a corner.
We had the ball in the back of the net twice in the opening five minutes of the second half – first through Natel then Steven Ugarkovic, but both goals were quickly pulled back for offside.
There’d be no cancelling out Arslan in the 53rd minute though.
A brilliant lofted diagonal ball from Hamza Sakhi opened up the pitch, Marin Jakolis then finding Ugarkovic who squared up to Arslan for the simple finish.
City got on top following the goal and pushed hard for a second, Aziz Behich going close with a powerful strike after a strong run into the box.
Jamie Young was called into his first meaningful save on the night in the 79th minute, reacting quickly to deny Jean Kouassi.
Eight minutes of stoppage was shown by the assistant referee, with City fans knowing that another goal would see us top the group and go through to the knockouts.
Another goal would come in the 99th minute but much to the dismay of the majority of fans inside Princes Park, it was at the wrong end which meant we had to settle for one point and further complicate our road to the knockouts.
The final ACL Group Stage matches will be played tomorrow night and there are two possible ways we can qualify for the knockouts as a top-ranked second-placed team.
If Bangkok United were to defeat Jeonbuk FC away from home we’d jump the Thai side and progress, while an unlikely 2+ goal win to Kaya FC against Incheon United plus a Yokohama F.Marinos loss would also see us through.
After plenty of away fixtures in recent weeks, we’ll return to AAMI Park for our next fixture this Sunday evening against Central Coast Mariners. Click here to get your tickets if you haven’t already!