AAP Soccer

A-League struggles continue in Asia

By AAP Newswire

Sydney FC's humbling at the hands of J League champions Yokohama F. Marinos has continued the struggles of A-League clubs in the Asian Champions League.

The runaway A-League leaders had no answer on Wednesday night as Ange Postecoglou's Marinos stormed to a comprehensive 4-0 win in Japan.

All three of Australia's ACL representatives suffered defeat this week, with Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory also losing.

A-League teams have only been beyond the competition's round of 16 on three occasions - most famously in 2014 when Western Sydney won the title and twice for Adelaide with a runner-up finish in 2008 and quarter-finals place in 2012.

Since the Wanderers won the competition, Australian clubs have claimed just 22 victories from 83 matches in the ACL.

The reasons for Australian club's struggles are myriad.

The A-League's salary cap ensures clubs are operating on a fraction of the budgets of their Chinese, Korean and Japanese counterparts.

There's also long travel distances and the fact many Australian clubs qualify for the competition almost a year before they take part.

Former Adelaide and Wanderers defender Rob Cornthwaite believes a naivety in approach against Asia's elite is a key factor too.

"There's a number of reasons and it's a multi-layered problem but I think ultimately our approach to it is probably not what it should be," Cornthwaite told AAP.

"We often go there and try to match these teams in terms of footballing ability which unfortunately we just can't.

"Technically they're a lot better, quite often tactically they can be a lot better.

"We've seen in the past the most pragmatic approaches from Adelaide and Western Sydney when it was all about defence; super-organised, super-structured is when we've had our so-called best runs in the ACL."

Cornthwaite played in the ACL for the Reds and spent time in Korea and Malaysia during his career.

He said his arrival at K League team Jeonnam Dragons in 2011 was an eye-opening experience on the gulf between Australia and another Asian nation.

"A lot of Aussies have gone to Asia and done well because you bring something different but out of 43 players, technically, I was probably the worst player in the team," he said.

"You could see the ability of the Japanese players last night (against Sydney). It was far superior to that of our Aussie boys that were on the park."

Cornthwaite said despite this week's losses, the mastermind of the Wanderers' 2014 campaign - Tony Popovic - was again showing the way for A-League clubs in the ACL.

Although Perth lost 1-0 at J League club Tokyo FC, Cornthwaite said Glory's defensive performance was worthy of praise.

"I know that Tony Popovic would be buzzing to be back in the Asian Champions League ... you can see that he's really thinking about it and really taking it seriously," Cornthwaite said.