Football Tribe Thailand
Buriram United’s difficult start to the season continued as they were crushed 3-0 by J1 League powerhouse, and 2017 ACL winners, Urawa Red Diamonds.
The reigning Thai League champions drew their first two domestic fixtures, and although it’s an uphill battle, a decent showing away in Saitama might just be what they need to turn things around.
Replacing departed marksman Diogo Luis Santo is another Brazilian striker, Pedro Junior. He was partnered up front by Thailand’s hottest starlet, Supachai Jaided, with 20-year-old Supachok Sarachat roaming behind. Right-back Narubadin Weerawatnodom returned from a long-term injury while Venezuela international Andres Tunez remained at the heart of the back-3. Coach Bandovic’selection surprise was the inclusion of pacey winger Sasalak Haiprakhon as a central midfielder, meaning the club started with 6 academy graduates and only 2 foreign players.
The ‘Thunder Castle’ kept their shape well as they ended the first half 0-0. However, hosts Urawa started the second half at full tilt and took the lead in the 50th minute through Japanese international Tomoaki Makino. The center-back escaped from Supachai Jaided with a well-timed run to powered in a bullet header.
That seemed to wake the visitor up as they began stringing passes together, with attacking midfielder Supachok being involved with everything positive from Buriram United.
And it didn’t take long for chances to come their way, with Supachok playing a pinpoint pass behind the home defense. Pedro Junior, cutting onto his right, failed to beat goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa. Buriram came close yet again when Tunez header ricocheted off the crossbar just moments later.
Target man Modibo Maïga came on for Narubadin, who was on a yellow, but the ex-West Ham United forward had little to no impact up front. Unluckily for Buriram, wide man Daiki Hashioka then net himself a brace, registering in the 75th and 88th minutes to round off an impressive ACL start for Urawa.
Božidar Bandović can be proud of how organized his boys were in the first half. Yet, there is definitely concern regarding the team’s offensive threat now that Diogo Luis Santo has left to spearhead Johor Darul Ta’zim FC’s attack instead.
Pedro Junior showed glimpses of quality but lack the chemistry with those behind him. Maïga’s hold up play and aerial ability might be a useful tactical element when faced with a deep defensive block, but his contribution was ineffective against top East Asian clubs who tend to press more and hold their defensive line higher up the pitch.
Buriram United will face a tough task next Wednesday when they welcome K League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC, led by the experienced striker Lee Dong-gook. Tonight the Thai giants have done well defensively but need to improve going forward if they want to salvage anything from matchday 2. Getting the best from their forward line will be crucial. Problem is, they only have one week to work that out.