Vanquished Sydney FC turn their attentions to A-League semifinal
Sydney FC will turn their attentions to Sunday's A-League home semifinal against Melbourne Victory after Australia's hopes of qualifying a side in the last 16 of the AFC Champions League were crushed for a third straight season.
A 1-0 loss away to group leaders Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea on Tuesday effectively ended second-placed Sydney's hopes of a last-16 place.
Even if they won their final game and finished level on points with Shanghai SIPG, the Chinese club would finish second ahead of them by virtue of having scored more away goals than the Sky Blues across their two games against each other.
Melbourne, who are also effectively out of contention to make the last 16, play away to South Korean side Daegu FC on Wednesday.
Perhaps with an eye to Sunday's game, Sydney coach Steve Corica replaced some key personnel in the final third of Tuesday's match.
For Sydney fans, Tuesday's game followed a depressingly familiar pattern which has marked and marred their Champions League campaign.
They created several chances, but failed to score for the third time in five games.
Corica said he was proud of his team's performance on Tuesday.
"I thought we were probably the better team on the night, but unfortunately we lost the game," Corica said.
"We created more chances, very good chances to score goals."
The relatively inexperienced central defensive combination of Aaron Calver and Jacob Tratt performed well and 18-year-old left-back Joel King added even more youth to the backline when he replaced Zullo.
All three are likely to be available for next Sunday, along with rested marquee Siem de Jong.
Melbourne opted to take virtually a second string side to South Korea and keep all of their stars back home and fresh for Sunday's match.