SMOKED OUT: Ulsan celebrate a goal against Wanderers in the haze from a flare last night. Picture: Getty ImagesJETS keeper Mark Birighitti has experienced first-hand the impact of competing in the Asian Champions League on an A-League campaign.
Birighitti was a member of the Adelaide squad that progressed to the final of the ACL in 2008, and was in goal in place of an injured Eugene Galekovic for the second leg of the decider against Gamba Osaka, which they lost 2-0.
‘‘It is draining,’’ Birighitti said. ‘‘Australian clubs are not used to playing a lot of games in a small space of time. It definitely takes a toll, mentally as much as anything.’’
Western Sydney Wanderers began their maiden ACL campaign with a 3-1 loss at home last night to 2012 champions Ulsan Hyundai, which followed a 2-0 away win over Perth on Friday.
The Jets take on Wanderers in Parramatta on Sunday, and Birighitti said it was vital that they made the most of signs of fatigue from the hosts.
‘‘This is Western Sydney’s first time being involved in the Champions League, and you never know how they are going to react to it,’’ he said.
‘‘They are a fit side, but playing a lot of games in a small amount of time definitely takes a toll.
‘‘When I was in Adelaide we were in the Asian Champions League and it is difficult playing numerous games close to together. Hopefully, they have a few tired legs and we can roll over them.’’
Wary of burnout, Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has rotated his squad during the A-League in readiness for the ACL and a hectic schedule of 13 matches in 53 days.
Marquee midfielder Shinji Ono and veteran keeper Ante Covic were rested from the trip across the Nullarbor.
Jerome Polenz missed the match through suspension.
‘‘They are a class outfit and have a lot of depth in the squad,’’ Birighitti said.
‘‘We just need to go at them. We can’t afford to sit off and try and soak up the pressure.
‘‘We have a game plan, and I’m sure we can go out there and do a job.’’
The Jets came back from 2-1 down to share the points in their last encounter with the Wanderers at Hunter Stadium last month.
Birighitti was critical of his failure to come and claim a cross which led to the Wanderers’ second goal.
When asked what he had learned from that game, the keeper said: ‘‘Not to come out and flap for crosses.
‘‘We have to go out from the start and not give them any time or space. If we can get into half-time not conceding a goal, we will definitely give them a real crack.’’
‘‘They played in Perth last weekend, and with all the travelling you have to take that into consideration.
‘‘It is a massive game. We really should have won on the weekend at home.
‘‘We have to start picking up points, starting this weekend.’’
Wanderers’ ACL campaign started in ignominy last night when defensive mistakes cost them dearly against Ulsan.
It took the Wanderers just 45 seconds to announce themselves on the ACL stage when Brendon Santalab scored one of the fastest goals in the history of the competition.
But the Korean giants took advantage of uncharacteristic Western Sydney errors to pile on three unanswered goals.
Towering Ulsan striker Kim Shin-Wook, who stands at over two metres, equalised from 12 metres out in the 35th minute after a weak clearing header from defender Jerome Polenz.
Another poor header from Polenz led to Ko Chang-Hyun netting just before the break to put Ulsan 2-1 up.
Kang Minsoo pounced on a defensive blunder from Iacopo La Rocca in the 65th minute.