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Sydney FC hold Yokohama F. Marinos in AFC Champions League farewell

Doha: Yokohama F. Marinos were confirmed as Group H winners as their 2020 AFC Champions League clash with eliminated Sydney FC finished in a 1-1 draw at Al Janoub Stadium on Friday.

Needing only a point to guarantee top spot in the section, the 2019 J League champions went ahead through Yuki Saneto’s 18th-minute strike, before breakout Sydney striker Trent Buhagiar squared the ledger with his fifth goal of the tournament just before the half-hour mark.

Yokohama will have to wait until later on Friday to learn the identity of their Round of 16 opponents, while Sydney’s participation ends with five points and last place in the group.

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Ange Postecoglou changed the entire starting line-up from Yokohama’s 4-1 win over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Tuesday, but his new-look team retained a similar sense of control, with their opponents chasing shadows for much of the opening 15 minutes.

Sydney goalkeeper Thomas Heward-Belle produced an outstanding save to deny Saneto’s rocket of a volley from a corner kick, but Sydney failed to heed the warning, with the same player volleying home the opening goal from the very next corner, this time finding the bottom corner of the net in the 18th minute.

Yokohama's attacks kept piling up in the aftermath of that goal, but Sydney snatched an equaliser against the run of play, with Buhagiar continuing his brilliant form in front of goal in the 29th minute.

The speedy striker latched onto an Anthony Caceres pass, once again beating an opposition defence for pace before calmly slotting the ball home to bring his fifth for the tournament, the most of any player in the East Zone, and second only to Abderrazak Hamdallah in the tournament as a whole.

The rejuvenated Australians could have gone ahead immediately after half-time, when Alexander Baumjohann fluffed his lines one on one with Yohei Takaoaka, but Yokohama slowly regained control, and it took another fine Heward-Belle stop to deny Jun Aamano, before Yuki Otsu and Daizen Maeda missed back to back chances near the hour mark.

Substitute Kosta Barbourses missed a chance to potentially win it for Sydney when he poked his effort over the crossbar after skilfully wriggling into the box, but despite that chance – or the 16 shots a goal racked up by Yokohama – the match ended with the points shared.

Yokohama will continue their bid for a first AFC Champions League title, against either China PR's Guangzhou Evergrande or Suwon Samsung Bluewings of Korea Republic, on Monday.

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