Southeast Asia Thailand

The Usual Suspects Win as the ACL Resumes in East Asia

The 2021 AFC Champions League returns to action after a brief period away with the East Asian group stages on Tuesday. The first matches of Group G at Bangkok’s Rajamangala National Stadium saw two clashes between East Asian powerhouses with Southeast Asian challengers, with the East Asians predictably winning their ties.

Pohang Steelers (South Korea) 2-0 Ratchaburi Mitr Phol (Thailand)

The first match of this year’s East Asian section saw 3-time ACL winners Pohang taking on hosts and debutants Ratchaburi. The Dragons were unlucky to not have gone 1-0 up after just one minute as Kritsanon Srisuwan struck the crossbar with his effort.

Pohang then grew their presence into the game after that, with Ratchaburi’s Iranian defender Vafa Hakhamaneshi forcing a goal-line clearance after Lim Sang-hyub had gotten the better of goalkeeper Kampol Pathomakkakul in the third minute.

However the Steelers were not denied in the 11th minute, after a Manuel Palacios cross was met with a perfect header from Borys Tashchy that left Kampol utterly beaten from close range.

Sanrawat Dechmitr, on loan from True Bangkok United, almost drew level for Ratchaburi in the 15th minute with a header, however his effort could only struck the crossbar.

Pohang then almost settled the game then and there in the 34th minute but Kampol managed to punch an aerial ball away before Colombian Palacios could get his head on it.

The second half saw an exchange of attacks, with Palacios once again threatening Kampol with a header in the 46th minute, which the 28-year old former Rayong FC goalkeeper managed to collect.

Junior Mapuku almost drew level for Ratchaburi in the 65th minute, with the Congolese drawing a save from Pohang goalie Kang Hyeon-mu.

Kampol was then called into action again late into the second half to deny both Go Young-joon and Lee Seung-mo, before his defenses was once again breached in the 81st minute. Young-joon managed to found Sang-hyub in the right wing, with the latter weaving his way into the Ratchaburi defense and angling in a powerful shot that doubled Pohang’s advantage, sealing the game in the South Koreans’ favor.

Johor Darul Ta’zim (Malaysia) 0-1 Nagoya Grampus (Japan)

The late kick-off at the Rajamangala saw the battle between the irresistible force against the unmovable object, with JDT’s red-hot Brazilian striker Bergson meeting up against the Nagoya’s impervious Australian goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak.

Nagoya almost drew first blood in the 2nd minute after Hiroyuki Abe managed to beat his defenders and launched a shot, however JDT goalkeeper and captain Farizal Marlias was able to thwart the 31-year old’s effort. The men from Aichi Prefecture then threatened the Southern Tigers once again in the 19th minute, this time Yuki Soma firing wide from outside the penalty area.

Langerak made his first meaningful action in the 22nd minute to deny Safawi Rasid’s excellent cross, before a Bergson counterattack went way off target in the 36th minute.

Arif Aiman then tested Langerak with a shot from an acute angle in the 42nd minute, however the Aussie was unfettered and managed to catch the youngster’s effort perfectly.

The second half saw Mateus blasting his shot agonizingly wide in the 56th minute, before Bergson once again tested the Nagoya backline in the 58th minute, with the Brazilian’s effort striking the crossbar.

Nagoya then took the lead in the 60th minute, after Ryogo Yamasaki managed to divert Farizal’s attention before passing a short ball to an unmarked Hiroyuki, who rifled home almost immediately before Farizal could turn his eyes at him.

Bergson finally got the bettter of Langerak in injury time with a close-ranged header and seemed to have rescued a point for JDT, however much to the Southern Tigers’ dismay, the referee disallowed the goal.

Both Nagoya and Pohang will face-off at the Rajamangala on Friday with both sides hoping to continue their excellent start to the competition, while JDT takes on Ratchaburi in a tasty Malaysia vs Thailand clash on the same day at the same stadium.