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Shandong into AFC Champions League quarters after last-gasp win

AFP , Wednesday 25 May 2016
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Views: 529

Substitute Hao Junmin's last-minute rocket broke Sydney FC hearts and put China's Shandong Luneng into the AFC Champions League quarter-finals after a sensational last-16 second leg on Wednesday.

Goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic's late penalty save -- after he also stopped a spot-kick in the first leg -- seemed to have earned 10-man Sydney their first appearance in Asia's last eight.

But with the scores at 2-1 on the night, and 3-2 on aggregate after last week's 1-1 draw, Hao's long-range shot swerved past Janjetovic and into the top corner, stunning the Sydney crowd.

It was enough to take Mano Menezes's Shandong into the quarter-finals for the first time in 11 years. Despite the 3-3 aggregate score, they squeezed through on the away goals rule.

"There's a lot of disappointments in football and there's a lot of happy times -- this is an extremely disappointing time for the players," an emotional Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold said afterwards.

"It took a great goal to beat us... all I can say is, these things happen in football," he added.

Sydney got off to a dream start when with less than two minutes gone, midfielder Brandon O'Neill's low free kick somehow ended up in the net for what was his first goal for his club.

But Shandong didn't take long to respond when striker Diego Tardelli picked out Walter Montillo in the box and the Argentine midfielder swept home the equaliser on 12 minutes.

The legs of Sydney goalkeeper Janjetovic denied Tardelli when the Brazilian went through one-on-one, before tempers frayed at the end of the first half.

After Matt Simon became embroiled in a shoving match with Shandong players, O'Neill charged across and knocked defender Dai Lin flying. Both Sydney players were booked.

Sydney made a sensational start to the second period when, with less than a minute gone, Rhyan Grant blasted them 2-1 ahead from the right side of the box after being teed up by Milos Ninkovic.

The hosts had their hearts in their mouths when Zac Anderson manhandled Yang Xu in the box and was shown a straight red, with Tardelli stepping up for the crucial spot-kick on 77 minutes.

But the normally reliable Brazilian saw his half-hearted effort saved by Janjetovic and he then miscued the rebound onto the bar, sparking relieved celebrations among the Sydney players.

However, their joy proved premature when in the final minute Hao received a lay-off from Montillo. He let fly with a sizzling shot which was beyond the reach of even the agile Janjetovic.

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