Sydney FC were left to rue missed chances as Shanghai SIPG downed the Australian champions 2-1 to begin their 2020 AFC Champions League campaign with a win at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar on Thursday.
Trent Buhagiar put the Sky Blues up early in the first half, but they will look back at a couple of huge misses from Kosta Barbarouses with regret after two headers from Li Shenglong in the second half gave Shanghai a comeback win in their first outing in this season's ACL.
The 2019-20 A-League champions had played twice in Asia before the COVID-19 break, but had only managed to collect a single point after a 4-0 loss to Japan's Yokohama F. Marinos and a 2-2 draw to South Korea's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
Since then, they have witnessed their top scorer Adam le Fondre leave for Indian Super League side Mumbai City FC on loan, while goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, centre-back Ryan McGowan, who has tested positive for coronavirus, and midfielder Anthony Caceres also missed out.
Shanghai were without striker Marko Arnautovic while former Chelsea midfielder Oscar is recovering from an injury. Head coach Vitor Pereira also have to be mindful of the fatigue from a domestic season that wrapped up only last week and the demands of having to play six group stage games in Qatar by December 4.
The Chinese Super League giants were caught off guard by Sydney's quick balls forward at the start and the A-League champions should have taken the lead as early as the fourth minute when an unmarked Barbarouses missed his shot from inside the box after Buhagiar's cut back.
Four minutes later, Buhagiar flicked another long ball towards Barbarouses and made his way to the box where he planted his finish in the top corner after receiving the service from his attacking partner and giving the Sky Blues a deserved 1-0 advantage.
The Australians could have doubled their lead in the 14th minute when 24-year-old defender Ben Warland, who was starting for McGowan in Sydney's back line, rattled the upright with a header before Paulo Retre shot wide with the follow up.
Li headed a cross from Fu Huan into the side netting in Shanghai's first notable chance of the game before Socceroos star Aaron Mooy struck one from distance that flew over the goal as the Chinese side began to wrest back some control from their opponents around the half-hour mark.
Sydney began the second half with another gilt-edged opportunity to pull away, but Barbarouses once again squandered the chance with the goal begging as the New Zealand international failed to get the right connection to a header back across the goal by Rhyan Grant.
The A-League side were punished for their reckless play in front of the goal when Li headed home a pinpoint delivery from Mooy to draw level in the 63rd minute. He found the back of the net again in the 79th minute -- this time with an even better header off a Yu Hai cross from the left flank.
Sydney ended the game without their goalkeeper Tom Heward-Belle after the 23-year-old was sent off for handling the ball outside his area. The Australians remain bottom of the group with one point from three games while Shanghai are second, three points behind leaders Yokohama who have two wins from two.