Last season's A-League premiership winners could not have asked for a better start in their Champions League debut. A first minute goal at home against the K-League's runner-up looked like it might propel Western Sydney Wanderers to a dream result and launch a good run at the knock out rounds. Instead, Ulsan Hyundai scored twice later in the first half and again mid-way through the second to secure an important 3-1 defeat of the Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium.
Brendon Santalab was the beneficiary of a Shinji Ono through ball in the first minute and did not waste the chance, providing the Wanderers' first ever goal in Asian competition. Ono nearly had his hand in a second Western Sydney goal but Nikolai Topor-Stanley could not quite direct his header on target in the 16th minute. Moments later heavy rains began and Ulsan quickly recovered.
In the 35th minute, Kim Shin-Wook put the visitors on the score sheet with a side-footed goal. Eight minutes later, the Tigers took the lead thanks to a fine volley from Ko Chang-Hyun. The Wanderers appealed for a second half handball against defender Kang Min-Soo but referee Abdullah Mohamed waved them off on the hour. Min-Soo then added to Western Sydney's frustration when he scored Ulsan's third in the 67th minute.
After such a bright start, the Wanderers will be disappointed not to have taken more from Wednesday's game and will have to wait two weeks to make amends in the Champions League. Next up is a trip to Chinese Super League side Guizhou Renhe on Wednesday March 12 in Guiyang. Renhe lost its opener 1-0 in Japan against Kawasaki Frontale. In the interim, Western Sydney host Newcastle Jets on Sunday March 2 back at Pirtek.
WSW Santalab (Ono) 1'
ULH Shin-Wook 35'
ULH Chang-Hyun 43'
ULH Min-Soo 67'
Western Sydney Wanderers: Covic; D'Apuzzo, Topor-Stanley, Spiranovic, La Rocca; Polenz, Mooy, Ono; Hersi, Bridge, Santalab
Ulsan Hyundai: Seung-Gyu, Yong, Min-Soo, Chikashi, Chang-Hyun, Shin-Wook, Rafinha, Sun-Min, Young-Sam, Sung-Hwan, Chi-Gon