Sky Blues impress but three points proving elusive
Another epic night in the Asian Champions League, another superlative performance from Sydney FC, and again only a point to show for it.
The Sky Blues fought out a hugely entertaining 2-2 draw with Shanghai SIPG, a result that furthers neither team's ACL aspirations and leaves Sydney stuck at the bottom of their group.
Following the same sides' 3-3 draw at Jubilee Stadium a fortnight ago, this was continental football at its finest - the moneybags of SIPG, with a squad worth many times that of Sydney, putting their Australian visitors under immense pressure but unable to strike the killer blow.
Four times in these two ties Sydney had taken the lead, and each time they had been pegged back, leaving Steve Corica's side with a sense of what they might actually have achieved.
Sydney even took the lead in Shanghai, and then fought their way back into the game after the home side scored a double in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
But now they must win their last two games, and hope that other results go their way, if Sydney are to have any hope of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Undoubtedly, though, they belong in this company, bolstered by high-class displays from the likes of Rhyan Grant and Andrew Redmayne.
Their first goal, scored from the unlikely source of Brandon O'Neill's left foot, was a breathtaking team goal, and their equaliser another reminder of Adam Le Fondre's predatory instincts.
In many ways the opening 45 minutes was the perfect Champions League performance from Sydney: assured, calm and clinical.
The Brazilian, Hulk, more mountain than man in Shanghai's colours, at times threatened to run riot but Sydney were resolute in the extreme.
Twice Redmayne made full-length, finger tip saves from Hulk's long-range pile-drivers, and another late on from the substitute Lin Chuangyi, amid the home side's pressure.
But just past the half-hour Sydney broke from their own penalty area, led by the whirling limbs of Grant down the right. His pass inside was brilliantly cushioned by Reza Ghoochannejhad into the path of Anthony Cacares and the attacker's deft pass left O'Neill clear on goal.
With some poise, O'Neill flicked the ball back inside goalkeeper Yan Junling and the ball crawled over the line.
Reaching halftime ahead, Sydney needed a strong start to the second half - instead their concentration wandered and the substitute Elkeson flicked home a header from Hulk's corner immediately.
When Wang Shenchao arrived at the far post to sweep in Zhang Wei's cross soon after, SIPG were sailing.
But Sydney found pressure of their own, and finally Siem De Jong's stabbed cross was cleverly headed in by Le Fondre to equalise.
Full-time Shanghai SIPG 2 (Elkeson 47, Wang Shenchao 59) Sydney FC 2 (Brandon O'Neill 33, Adam Le Fondre 62) at Shanghai Stadium. Referee: Abdulrahman Al Jassim