Newcastle Jets will travel to Japan to face Kashima Antlers in an Asian Champions League playoff to determine who will qualify for the group stage.
The Jets defeated Indonesian side Persija Jakarta 3-1 after extra time in the second preliminary round of the tournament to reach the final playoff.
A-League teams have had mixed success in the playoff stage of the competition, with the first Australian involvement occurring in 2012. Australia currently has one playoff round spot, with two others obtaining automatic qualification.
Let’s look at the brief history of A-League clubs in Asian Champions League playoffs:
In 2012, Adelaide United defeated Indonesian side Persipura Jayapura 3-0 at Hindmarsh Stadium, with Nigel Boogaard, Evgeniy Levchenko and Sergio van Dijk all hitting the scoresheet. After progressing, Adelaide topped their group and reached the quarter-finals of the competition.
The 2013 playoff was not as happy for Australia, with Brisbane Roar going down 3-0 on penalties to Thai club Buriram United in Thailand. The match was originally going to be played in Brisbane, however this was later changed.
It was Melbourne Victory’s turn to take part in the playoff in 2014, where they defeated Thai side Muangthong United 2-1 in Geelong. Muangthong took an early lead in the 22nd minute through Mario Gjurovski, however second half goals to James Troisi and Leigh Broxham sent the hosts to the group stage. The Victory could only manage a third-placed finish in their group.
In 2015, the Central Coast Mariners were unsuccessful in their quest to reach the group stage, losing 3-1 at home to Chinese club Guangzhou R&F. Jiang Ning and Lu Lin scored for the visitors, while Josh Rose added to the away side’s lead with an own-goal. Glen Trifiro scored a consolation goal for the Mariners in injury time.
Adelaide made another appearance in the playoffs in 2016, however they fell to Chinese club Shandong Luneng 2-1 at home. Yang Xu and Diego Tardelli gave Shandong a half-time lead, while Sergio Cirio hit the scoresheet for the hosts in injury time.
Things changed in 2017 when the third-placed A-League team had to enter the second preliminary round, rather than the sole play-off. This did not matter for Brisbane, as they defeated Filipino club Global FC 6-0 at home. Brandon Borrello scored four goals for the Roar, while Manuel Arana managed a double.
Brisbane then had to travel to China to play a Shanghai Shenhua side featuring Carlos Tevez, with the Roar surprising many in their 2-0 win. Borrello hit the net again, as did Tommy Oar who also assisted the first goal. Things did not get better for the Queensland side, as they finished bottom of their group with a goal difference of -12.
The Roar again made an appearance in the 2018 season, however they could not repeat their good showing like the previous year. Brisbane lost the encounter 3-2 to Filipino side Ceres-Negros at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre, with goals to Massimo Maccarone and Eric Bautheac not enough for the hosts. To make matters worse, numbers began to peel off Brisbane’s jerseys and Bautheac’s number was taped to his top, in what was later described as a farce.
A Newcastle victory would be a good result for Australian football and would further add to the mixed history of A-League clubs in the playoff round of this competition.