Football Tribe SEA Editor
Chiangrai United are still seeking their first win in the 2020 AFC Champions League as Beijing Guoan managed an away victory in their first competitive game of the year, courtesy of a first-half goal by Wang Ziming and a disciplined defensive performance to dampen the hosts’ historic night.
The Thai champions started cautiously against their storied opponents, setting up to soak up the Beijing pressure and use the two-pronged attack of target-man Bill and pacy forward Chaiyawat Buran to catch the visitors off guard.
The hosts began to build momentum heading towards the 20-minute mark, pushing their way to the Beijing by-line and winning themselves multiple corners to put pressure on the Beijing defense with deliveries from Siwakorn Tiatrakul and Lee Yong-Rae.
However, it was Beijing who were able to snatch the advantage on the transition, catching Chiangrai off-guard to slip Jonathan Viera through at the receding backline. The Spanish playmaker was able to play a delightful through pass to slash the defense and put Wang Ziming through on goal. The 23-year-old attacker had enough composure to take a touch before calmly sliding the ball past Apirak Worawong in the Chiangrai goal to give Beijing the lead.
Forced to chase the game, Chiangrai continued to pour forward in search of a goal, with most of their threat coming from set-pieces. The Beetles’ midfield trio of destroyer Phitiwat Sukjitthamakul, creator Siwakorn Tiatrakul, and runner Lee Yong-Rae ensured the side remained competitive in key areas of the park, but the two-man forward line simply didn’t pack enough punch to break past the Imperial Guards.
A number of chances went begging for both sides, due to an excellent string of saves by Apirak for Chiangrai at one end, and a failure by the hosts to hit the target at the other. Chiayawat missed one of the side’s best chances shortly after the break, and he was soon replaced by new signing Mailson in the 59th minute.
The speedy Brazilian substitute seemed determined to win as many free-kicks as possible for the home side, who were pinning their hopes of breaking with well-rehearsed set-piece routines. However, he struggled to contribute much else to the game and didn’t link up particularly well with strike partner Bill, who was mostly isolated and absent for large stretches of the game.
Playing their first competitive game of the season, Bruno Genesio’s men were far more pragmatic than the team coached by Roger Schmidt a year ago. The side receded into a more defensive posture to ensure they collected all three points, aiming to improve on the disappointment of their group stage elimination last season.
Elsewhere in the group, FC Seoul managed a 1-0 home win over Melbourne Victory, leaving the Chinese, Korean and Australian sides all on three points. This result leaves Chiangrai with a mountain to climb, while Beijing will do well to grind out these results on the road before they return for their postponed home matches in April and May.