Southeast Asia Thailand

History for Damjanovic but Cerezo Mount Comeback for Impressive Win

Kitchee SC’s Dejan Damjanovic placed himself in the AFC Champions League’s history books on Sunday night as he became the competition’s all-time top scorer outright thanks to his goal against Cerezo Osaka. However, that first half goal was not enough to deliver Kitchee all three points as Cerezo turned things around in the second half and edged out the Hong Kong champions 2-1 at the end of the day. Meanwhile, there was another landmark on Sunday at Buriram’s Chang Arena earlier in the day as Port FC notched their first ever ACL win with a 3-0 demolition job of Guangzhou FC.

Port FC (Thailand) 3-0 Guangzhou FC (China)

Having been beaten 2-0 by Kitchee in their first Group J match, Port were looking for redemption as they take on 2-time ACL winners Guangzhou, who were fielding their kids in this year’s continental action. The Lions of Khlong Toei were looking to capitalize on their opponents’ depleted state and they managed to seize upon the opportunity perfectly with a swashbuckling performance from start to finish.

Thitathorn Aksornsri, one half of the Aksornsri twins, gave Guangzhou an ominous warning in the 11th minute with a powerful header that went off-target. And while goalkeeper Zhang Jianshi can count his lucky stars that Thitathorn was unable to find his target, ten minutes later he found his luck running out fast as Port took the lead.

Elias Dolah bagged himself the honor of being the first Port player to score in the ACL, smashing home a header after receiving a sublime cross from Pakorn Prempak.

Guangzhou tried their best to chase the game after conceding the opener, however Worawut Srisupha in the Port goal was virtually unchallenged as the Chinese Super League giants were unable to craft anything meaningful within the opposition’s defense.

The Southern China Tigers then found themselves 2-0 down in 60th minute, as Pakorn turned from provider to scorer with a blistering header. John Baggio managed to provide the assist to Port’s number 7, with Pakorn smashing home the cross first-time to force Zhang to pick the ball out of his net for the second time in the game.

Substitute Philip Roller then sealed the win for Port in the 76th minute, receiving a pass from an impressive Sergio Suarez before thumping in the killing blow that left Zhang utterly beaten.

Suarez then had the opportunity to made it 4-0 Port in the dying minutes of the game with a penalty after Dolah was fouled within the area. However, Zhang did well to deny the Spaniard his goal with a brilliant save, salvaging some of his honor that had been left tattered to pieces by a ruthless Port side.

The penalty miss mattered little to the Lions of Khlong Toei, as the three valuable points ensured that their ACL campaign is still well and truly alive.

Cerezo Osaka (Japan) 2-1 Kitchee SC (Hong Kong)

Sunday’s second match at the Chang Arena saw Group J’s pacesetters going up against one another. With Cerezo the clear favorites in this encounter, Kitchee counted upon their disciplined defense to make life tough for the men in pink, with the likes of Motohiko Nakajima and Adam Taggart being left frustrated by the Hong Kongers’ resilience.

Then out of nowhere, in the 38th minute, Kitchee managed to hit Cerezo on the counter. A brilliant move from Cleiton in slicing open the Cerezo defense saw the Brazilian finding Damjanovic within the opposition’s penalty area. The Montenegrin immediately greeted Cleiton’s ball with a powerfully struck shot that made its way past Cerezo goalie Kim Jin-hyeon, allowing Damjanovic to finally overtake Lee Dong-gook as the ACL’s all-time top scorer with 38 goals to his name.

Being a goal down prompted Cerezo to intensify their attacks on the Kitchee defense. After Nakajima had gone wide and Riki Harakawa had his shot being saved by Paulo Cesar in the first half, the second half saw more of the same from Levir Culpi’s charges.

A cross from Tatsuhiro Sakamoto could only struck the crossbar while Cesar was on-hand to deny both Nakajima and Tiago Pagnussat, with the Brazilian-born Hong Kong goalie being in top form on the night.

Inevitably, Cerezo’s constant pressure would cause both Cesar and the Kitchee defense to buckle in the 69th minute. A low shot from Sakamoto was parried away by Cesar, however Taggart was on the right place and in the right time to seize upon the rebound and bundle home the equalizer.

Two minutes afterwards, Tiago managed to complete the Cerezo comeback, rifling in a screamer from distance that slipped through Cesar’s grasps and into the goal.

The 2-1 win would ensure that Cerezo would assume full control over Group J, with Kitchee and Port tied for 2nd place, the former winning out on head-to-head.

Cerezo will take on Port in June 30th’s early kick-off, with Kitchee facing-off against Guangzhou in the late game.