Sydney FC's hopes of replicating their A-League success in Asia were dealt an early blow after losing their crucial opening group match to Suwon Bluewings and surrendering their imposing home record.
For the first time in 683 days, the Sky Blues walked down the tunnel at Allianz Stadium with the unfamiliar sour taste of defeat after slumping to a 2-0 loss at home to the Korean club on Wednesday night. Their first competitive home defeat in 22 months was a major missed opportunity for Sydney to transfer their domestic dominance to the Asian Champions League, slipping to a Suwon still in the midst of their pre-season campaign and missing at least two key players.
After nearly two years of dominance in the A-League, Sydney FC discovered quickly that life in Asia is far more tricky. That lesson began in the opening minute when young defender Aaron Calver misjudged the flight of a long ball, allowing Suwon's Dejan Damjanovic to hone in towards goal but he spared the blushes of the Sydney defender with a wasteful finish.
Sydney's midfield metronomes, Brandon O'Neill and Josh Brillante, were as lively as ever but found Suwon far harder to break down. The pair were reliable in breaking down attacks, but their distribution was frequently interrupted or let down by more hopeful passes than usual.
Sydney playmakers Milos Ninkovic and Adrian Mierzejewski worked tirelessly trying to probe holes in Suwon's defence, however the visitors' flexible formation allowed them to defend with numbers and stifle the midfield. It delayed Sydney's first chance until the 28th minute - their only meaningful attempt on goal in the first half - when Bobo's header flashed over the bar.
They struggled to create any more after the restart and long passes became more frequent than their usual fluid and composed spells of possession. It was a sign of Sydney's frustration more than anything. They struggled to break down Suwon at home with a formula normally so successful against A-League opposition but were faced with far more disciplined pressure.
Eventually that pried Sydney's defence wide open. From 20 metres out, Damjanovic struck a dagger into Sydney's hopes of continental success, unleashing a powerful drive from distance that flew past goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne and into the back of the net to give Suwon a 1-0 lead.
They should have doubled that tally and consolidated the win when a chance fell to Waguininho a metre out from an empty net in the 71st minute. However, his decision not to take a first-time shot kept Sydney in the contest after fullback Michael Zullo made an inspiring goal-saving tackle.
But it only delayed the inevitable. An accidental handball by O'Neill inside the box gifted Suwon a chance to make it 2-0 from the penalty spot. Damjanovic did just that, calmly slotting his second from the spot ot seal the win.
The lacklustre loss at home for Sydney FC means they are beginning to face an uphill battle to finish in the top two of their group and qualify for the knock-out stages.