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Analysis: 10-man Jeonbuk earn point at Sydney


Sydney: Honours were shared at the Jubilee Stadium on Wednesday as Sydney FC were unable to hold out against visitors Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors despite going into the closing minutes a goal and a man up.

A back-and-forth match between Australia's league leaders and the reigning Korea Republic champions proved an entertaining affair, but the hosts failed to make their numerical advantage count and a first home win in the AFC Champions League since April 2016 continues to elude the Sky Blues.

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Jeonbuk dominate the centre

With veteran striker Lee Dong-gook not selected as part of the squad that travelled from Jeonju to Jubilee Stadium, and Cho Kyu-seong on the bench, Jose Morais' side lined up with South African Lars Veldwijk as the main focal point in attack.

The 4-5-1 formation allowed Kim Bo-kyung, Takahiro Kunimoto and Lee Soo-bin to play as part of a three-man centre, and the trio were able to outnumber the opposing Paulo Retre and Luke Brattan.

As in the above graphic of the players' average positions, Kim (13) and Kunimoto (17) were often found in close quarters, while Retre (8) and Brattan (26) were pulled apart. Lee (57) was able to play in more of a screen role to allow his teammates to push up.

The constant recycling of the ball between the three saw four of Jeonbuk's top five passing combinations involve at least one of their three central midfielders. It was a platform that allowed the visitors to always remain a threat even after going down to 10 men following Choi Bo-kyung's sending off.


Young gun's night to remember

Having been part of the Australia U-23 side that memorably qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after the Olyroos finished third at the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020, Trent Buhagiar continued his breakout year with a first start in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday.

Only recently turned 22, the young forward made full use of the opportunity with an industrious performance capped by a moment of brilliance when he bamboozled Choi Bo-kyung before beating Song Beom-keun at his near post.

While he didn't see much of the ball, due to Jeonbuk controlling possession, Buhagiar was often back helping out his defence and could be found in all areas of the field. As well as his goal, the number 12 won five duels, two tackles, two fouls and created one chance for teammates.

However, his defining moment came in the 56th minute when he was sent through on goal, and like any good attacker he took full advantage. Sydney FC will hope for many more performances like this to come.


Han Kyo-won shines

A member of the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors setup since 2014, Han Kyo-won has already enjoyed many AFC Champions League nights to remember. Among his most significant coming at the 2016 final when he scored in Al Ain to ultimately secure the K League side their second Continental title.

Having missed out on their 2020 campaign opener, the 29-year-old winger demonstrated once more his importance to Jeonbuk's attack as he was arguably the visitors' most productive player on Wednesday.

Han had more shots on goal than any of his teammates, created more chances (4) than anyone on the pitch, put in more successful crosses (3) and won more duels (8). He also did not shirk his defensive duties blocking two shots, winning a tackle and making an interception.

What will be remembered, though, is his late equaliser after he smartly fired home after Murilo's shot had rebounded off the woodwork, but it was a performance that warranted the reward.

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