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Sydney FC ease into AFC Champions League

Sydney FC have cruised to a 5-0 win over an outclassed Kaya FC at Jubilee Stadium to reach the AFC Champions League group stage.

Four second-half goals – doubles from Bobo and Adam Le Fondre – on Tuesday night complemented a Trent Buhagiar opener to ensure a comfortable victory for the Sky Blues.

The preliminary-round match was the first outing by an Australian side in the competition since December 2020, after COVID-19 forced A-League clubs to withdraw last year.

Despite the deluge in Sydney during the preceding 24 hours, the match was given final approval two hours prior to kick-off.

The pitch held up remarkably well and while the rain stayed away for periods of the match, the high winds proved the biggest challenge for the players to overcome.

With one eye on a busy A-League schedule, Sydney FC coach Steve Corica made six changes from the side that played in the derby on the weekend, with big-name imports Luciano Narsingh and Milos Ninkovic the most notable absentees.

One of those new faces, Buhagiar, broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark with a close-range finish after Kosta Barbarouses’s volley was smartly blocked by goalkeeper Zach Banzon.

Sydney FC had already created a host of chances by that point and should have had a penalty when Paulo Retre was clearly tripped, but Indian referee Rowan Arumughan inexplicably failed to point to the spot.

Buhagiar had come closest to breaking the deadlock, pinging a close-range snapshot against the crossbar in the opening minutes.

While Sydney FC carved several openings, the varied line-up did lack cohesion at times in the first half.

The Filipinos displayed their lack of match-focus at times – they have played just a handful of matches over the past year – with some poor defending leading to goals in quick succession after the interval with Bobo the player to profit.

The Brazilian swept home a loose ball within two minutes of the restart and then converted a penalty after Rhyan Grant was needlessly clipped as he burst into the box.

The contest was effectively over at that point and it became a case of how large the winning margin would be for the home side.

Substitute Le Fondre extended the advantage on 71 minutes through the second half with a routine header from a Mustafa Amini corner.

Le Fondre doubled his personal tally 10 minutes later with a trademark cool finish after Patrick Wood expertly teed up the opening.

Kaya narrowly failed to earn a consolation with a near-miss deep into injury-time being their only real opening of the contest.

Sydney FC will now face Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Hoang Anh Gia Lai of Vietnam in Group H.

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