Supersub Trent Buhagiar has scored with his first touch as Sydney FC drew their second successive match in the Asian Champions League group stages.
The Maltese striker came on for Adam Le Fondre in the 58th minute with Sydney 1-0 down to Hoang Anh Gia Lai on Tuesday, and struck a minute later from Anthony Caceres’ cross to level the tie.
It was Buhagiar’s 21st goal for the club, but the first header.
The draw followed Sydney’s goalless encounter with South Korean club Jeonbuk on Saturday. That result looked useful at the time and appeared even better after Jeonbuk beat Kevin Muscat’s Yokohama F Marinos 1-0 on Tuesday.
With a tight schedule in draining conditions – all matches are being played in hot and humid Ho Chi Minh City – Muscat had made seven changes.
Sydney and Yokohama now meet in back-to-back matches on Friday and Monday.
Hoang Ahn Gia Lai had lost their first group match 2-1 to Yokohama and were immediately on the back foot as Sydney pressed early with two penalty shouts rejected.
Having survived that early pressure Gai Lai went ahead after 26 minutes with a 30-yard shot from Vu Van Thanh that was deflected off Ben Warland.
Sydney were better in the second period and deserved their equaliser.
Gaolscorer Buhagiar revealed coach Corica was unhappy with the first-half display.
“We had a few chances in the first half at the start but they didn’t go our way,” said Buhagiar. “The coach got into the boys at half-time and told us we need to do better. I thought we came out strong and were unlucky not to get a second.”
The entire group is being played between 16 April and 1 May with teams in Covid-19 bubbles. While Hoang Anh Gia Lia are not based in Ho Chi Minh City they have attracted a lot of support .