FOOTBALL: The pressure was on Adelaide United to save the face of Australian soccer on the intercontinental stage.
After Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney were battered 6-0 and 5-1 respectively just 24 hours earlier in the AFC Champions League, United - sitting bottom of the A-League - was expected to be belted in China.
But Adelaide proved Australian football still had a pulse after Jiangsu Suning beat a resilient United 2-1 at Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre last night.
For the opening eight minutes it looked like Adelaide was about to buck a sorry losing trend in Asia but the mega rich club turned on the afterburners once United turned over possession one too many times.
Brazilian aces Alex Teixeira and Ramires - earning about $33 million a year between them which is more than the entire 10 A-League clubs' salary caps - combined to give Jiangsu a deserved 1-0 lead in the 14th minute.
Ramires did all the damage when he lost his marker Riley McGree outside the box before firing in a low 22m shot which keeper Daniel Margush could only parry into the path of Teixeira who tapped the ball home.
The goal arrived five minutes after Li Ang rocked the crossbar with a volley after a Teixeira cross.
Teixeira then made it 2-0 with a brilliant solo run inside the box beating McGree and Dylan McGowan before poking the ball in between Margush's legs in the 72nd minute.
Just 60 seconds earlier Adelaide's Tarek Elrich had the ball in the back of the net from a brilliant volley after a Baba Diawara headed assist but the defender was cruelly denied by a very tight offside call.
But the Reds ended the clash in positive fashion when striker Eli Babalj scored with a classy 6m looping header in stoppage time from a perfect Elrich cross.
Babalj made his incredible return to football coming off the bench for Jordan O'Doherty in the 84th minute, 14 months after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in Brisbane.
But Adelaide did have other chances to score.
Diawara watched his headed effort from a Sergio Cirio cross land safely in the arms of Jiangsu keeper Zhang Sipeng before the Senegalese striker attempted an unsuccessful bicycle kick in the 24th minute.
Despite Adelaide's defiant attitude Ramires ran the show from midfield linking up with Teixeira constantly.
The Brazilians penetrating the Reds with beautiful combination play without reward was evident in the 53rd minute when the ex Chelsea UEFA Champions League winner sprayed his shot wide before taking too much time to pull the trigger 60 seconds later.
Diawara then had another chance to give Jiangsu grief but the striker's first touch was too heavy after the Chinese side tried to play the offside trap but failed in the 62nd minute.
Nikola Miluesnic missed a golden opportunity to equalise in the 65th minute when he smacked the ball over the bar from point blank range after a sublime cross from substitute Ben Garuccio.
A minute later Margush made a great save from a 22m bullet from Roger Martinez.
Martinez had another crack at breaking Margush in the 81st minute but the teenager again repelled the Colombian's 15m effort turning his shot around the post for a corner.
Adelaide's loss means the Reds still have a chance to qualify for the knockout round after Jeju United - the Reds opponent on March 15 at Hindmarsh - belted Gamba Osaka 4-1 away last night.
But Michael Marrone will miss the clash due to suspension after earning his second yellow card in as many matches.
Jiangsu is currently top of Group H with six points while Jeju and Gamba are locked on three points.
Adelaide is yet to open its points account.
Before Adelaide faced Jiangsu in Nanjing, United, Wanderers and Roar had scored just one goal and conceded 18 in five Champions League matches.
Now after six matches in Asia this year, Australian clubs have now scored two goals and have conceded 20 with just one point earned from Roar.
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