J.League 1 side Gamba Osaka got their AFC Champions League campaign off to a great start on Friday after they beat group stage debutants Tampines Rovers of Singapore 2-0. The win allowed Gamba to assume joint-control of Group H, alongside South Korean champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors who survived a Singha Chiangrai United fightback to win 2-1 over their Thai opponents.
Tampines Rovers (Singapore) 0-2 Gamba Osaka (Japan)
Masanobu Matsunami’s Gamba may are struggling badly in the J1, however they never looked off a beat against a Tampines side who are making their maiden bow in Asia’s premier club competition.
Gamba’s star man Takashi Usami managed to draw a save from the Stags’ goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari after just two minutes at Tashkent’s Lokomotiv Stadium, before Patric saw his effort being deflected behind by the Tampines defense.
Kosuke Onose was next and his cannonball from range struck the woodwork in the 21st minute, reminding an improving Tampines that their opponents are leagues above them.
Inevitably, Gamba took the lead in the 26th minute.
Left-back Hiroki Fujiharu managed to outsmart Tampines’ young winger Marc Ryan Tan in the flank before sending in a pin-point cross towards Patric, with the Brazilian easily heading the ball beyond Syazwan’s reaches.
Tampines were not without their resistance in their match, as after Patric had given them the lead the Singaporeans tried their best to draw level. Kyoga Nakamura managed to fire off a low drive in the 30th minute that was excellently saved by Gamba’s veteran goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi.
Syazwan was called into action once again in the second half, denying both Yosuke Ideguchi and Usami, before the 28-year old’s defenses were breached once again late into the match.
In the 88th minute, substitute Leandro Pereira managed to head in a Shu Kurata cross into Syazwan’s goal that sealed all three points for Gamba, ensuring that Tampines would start their maiden ACL campaign with a 2-0 defeat.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (South Korea) 2-1 Singha Chiangrai United (Thailand)
Elsewhere in Tashkent at the Bunyodkor Stadium, South Korean behemoths Jeonbuk managed to get the better of Thai opponents Chiangrai in a closely-contested encounter that saw the Beetles almost nicking a point off the two-time ACL winners.
In a cagey first half that saw both teams being evenly matched, it was Jeonbuk who took the lead in the 35th minute after Lee Seung-gi managed to fire an explosive volley that left Chiangrai goalkeeper Apirak Worawong utterly beaten.
The Green Warriors almost doubled their lead before the referee blew for half-time, however Brinner managed to prevent Kim Seung-dae from scoring after the latter had managed to beat Apirak.
Chiangrai then closed the first half with an excellent chance of their own, with Cho Ji-hun blazing an effort that went wide off goal.
The first few minutes of the second half saw Apirak coming to Chiangrai’s rescue, denying an effort from Gustavo after the Brazilian had linked up excellently for the ball with Choi Young-jun.
However, Apirak was unable to save Chiangrai from Gustavo in the 52nd minute. The striker managed to find the back of the net after Jeonbuk was awarded a penalty following a foul on Takahiro Kunimoto by Sanukran Thinjom.
With Jeonbuk in cruise control, Chiangrai are unwilling to let their opponents get away with all three points that easily, with Sanukran attempting to redeem himself from conceding Jeonbuk’s penalty by providing an excellent pass to Sivakorn Tiatrakul. The Chiangrai number 10 fired off a low drive towards Jeonbuk’s goal, which was unfortunately saved by goalkeeper Lee Bum-young who tipped it behind for a corner.
A fatal error by the Jeonbuk defense allowed Chiangrai to claw themselves a goal back in the 68th minute. Captain Lee Yong’s attempt in clearing the ball away instead ends up in him passing the ball towards Chiangrai substitute Ekanit Panya, who stabbed home past Bum-young to reduce the deficit for the Beetles.
Bill then almost salvaged a point for Chiangrai in the dying minutes of the game, with the Brazilian even managing to round Bum-young to earn himself a clear shot at goal. Unfortunately for both Bill and the Beetles, the striker’s finish was poor and he ended up agonizingly going wide, completely missing the open goal to allow Jeonbuk to survive the match with all three points.
Both Gamba and Jeonbuk will face-off against one another in Group H’s second match on June 28th, while at the same day both Tampines and Chiangrai will clash in an all-Southeast Asian showdown.