Goalie crisis opens door for Sydney FC rookies

Sydney FC’s goalkeeping crisis has led to a selection showdown between teenage custodians Adam Pavlesic or Levi Kaye for an AFC Champions League berth.Already without first-choice gloveman Andrew Redmayne, who stayed in Australia for the birth of his child, the Sky Blues’ goalkeeping stocks took another hit in Qatar on Thursday night when deputy keeper Tom Heward-Belle was sent off in his side’s 2-1 loss to Chinese club Shanghai SIPG.

With Sydney’s Champions League campaign on life support after picking up just three points from match, a baptism of fire awaits either Pavlesic or Kaye in the Sky Blues’ must-win Group H match against South Korean club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Wednesday night.

Pavlesic, 18, is a Sydney scholarship contract holder, while 19-year-old Kaye plays for the club’s NPL team.

“It’s up to one of them to train well and we’ll make a decision,” Sydney coach Steve Corica said in contemplating which of the two young keepers would replace the suspended Heward-Belle, who was red-carded for handling the ball outside his penalty area.

“We’ve got four or five days before our next match so we’ll see how they cope with the pressure.

“What they’ve got to see it as is an opportunity. It’s about taking the chances when they come and this is an opportunity for one of those young boys to do that – it’s as simple as that.”

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Corica was not able to substitute an outfield player to bring on either Pavlesic or Kaye after Heward-Belle’s stoppage-time send off because Sydney had already used their three second-half windows for substitutions.

As a result, Socceroos fullback Rhyan Grant was used between the posts for the dying stages of a contest Sydney could easily have won had they taken their chances.

Sydney led 1-0 at half-time through a Trent Buhagiar goal but it could have been 3-0 had they not wasted at least two golden opportunities.

A Shanghai side inspired by Socceroos midfielder Aaron Mooy made the Sky Blues pay for their wastefulness, with a Li Shenglong second-half double sealing SIPG’s win.

“We deserved more but you’ve got to take your chances when they come,” Corica said.

“That’s the whole point of this competition. If you don’t do that you get punished. We only got the one goal and sometimes that’s not enough.

“We have to start winning games. Draws aren’t enough for us at the moment.”

Late Qatar arrival Anthony Caceres will be available to take on Jeonbuk but fellow midfielder Luke Brattan could again be sidelined with the hamstring injury that forced him to miss Thursday night’s loss.

Corica was on Friday night awaiting the results of defender Ryan McGowan’s latest COVID-19 test. If it came back negative, McGowan was set to travel from Scotland to Qatar on Saturday.

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