Southeast Asia Thailand

Pakorn’s Stunner the Highlight in Port’s Cerezo Draw

Port FC could only play out a 1-1 draw with Group J leaders Cerezo Osaka in Wednesday’s AFC Champions League action, however the major highlight of that day’s action would be Pakorn Prempak’s stunning goal that opened the scoreline for the Lions of Khlong Toei on the stroke of half. Scored from deep within Port’s own half, Pakorn’s wonder-goal eclipsed yet another historic strike from Dejan Damjanovic, with the Montenegrin scoring a 36th minute penalty for Kitchee SC in a 1-0 win over Guangzhou Evergrande that inches him closer to 40 goals in the ACL.

Cerezo Osaka (Japan) 1-1 Port FC (Thailand)

Port took on Cerezo in Tuesday’s early kick-off at the Chang Arena, knowing that if they manage to nick points off the group leaders, their chances of getting out of Group J would remain alive.

Adding more to Port’s chances was the decision from Cerezo head coach Levir Culpi to rest his big guns. There were no Adam Taggart, Hiroaki Okuno, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Tatsuhiro Sakamoto, Ayumu Seko, Tiago Pagnussat and Kim Jin-hyeon in Cerezo’s starting lineup for Tuesday, with Okuno, Kiyotake, Sakamoto, and Ayumu only making it to the bench.

Despite struggling initially, Cerezo’s second-stringers eventually got their rhythm together and assumed control of the game, with the likes of Hirotaka Tameda and Mutsuki Kato keeping the Port defense busy.

Midway through the first half, veteran striker Yoshito Okubo managed to get himself a sniff at Port’s goal, however the 39-year old’s effort went off-target, before two minutes later Okubo found himself unable to get the better out of Worawut Srisupha in the Port goal once again.

In the 29th minute, Cerezo came closest to opening the scoring after causing a huge skirmish within the Port penalty area. A cross from the right flank by Motohiko Nakajima went flying in front of Worawut’s goal, prompting players from both sides to swarm inside the box. The ball fell into the possession of Yuta Koike, who crossed it back into the penalty area from the left flank.

The cross was then headed towards the Port goal, with a Port defender managing to thwart the effort before Philip Roller’s attempt to clear the ball away instead found Mutsuki, who could only rattle the crossbar with his shot.

Then the inexplicable happened as the clock winds down on the first half. Goalkeeper Worawut passed the ball short towards Pakorn who then pumped it upfield in an attempt to provide the attacking Port players with the ball. Instead, the ball went flying above the heads of players from both teams before bouncing off the Chang Arena turf, going over Cerezo goalkeeper Kenya Matsui, and into the goal.

1-0 Port and the men from Khlong Toei have the advantage going into the break.

It was during the second half that Levir realized the dangers that Port might pose with their newfound confidence following their goal. The Brazilian took action by introducing both Sakamoto and former Sevilla man Kiyotake into the fray in the 67th minute, after Port had replaced an injured Worawut with reserve goalkeeper-cum-rapper Watchara Buathong 16 minutes prior.

The introduction of both Sakamoto and Kiyotake resulted in them collaborating for Cerezo’s 79th minute equalizer. Sakamoto played a one-two with Kiyotake that carved the Port defense open, before the 24-year old former Montedio Yamagata player fires low past Watchara to salvage a point for the men in pink.

A draw against a much-fancied Cerezo would undoubtedly boost Port’s morale, however they must be wary for the return match on July 3rd, as Levir would surely deploy his big guns as he knew that the Lions of Khlong Toei are not a side to be underestimated.

Guangzhou FC (China) 0-1 Kitchee SC (Hong Kong)

The last time Guangzhou met opposition from Hong Kong, they blasted 13 goals without reply across two matches against Eastern AA in the 2017 ACL group stages. The Southern China Tigers won 7-0 in Guangzhou before thrashing their opponents, then coached by female trailblazer Chan Yuen-ting, 6-0 in Hong Kong.

However, when Kitchee came to the Chang Arena on Tuesday, things are drastically different.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Guangzhou to leave their first team players back in China for their Chinese Super League games, with a contingent of reserve and youth players being brought to Buriram by the club. This would surely entice Kitchee’s appetite as they seek to keep their chances of getting out of Group J alive, along with exacting some measure of revenge for what Guangzhou had inflicted to their fierce domestic rivals Eastern.

As expected from Guangzhou’s performance in this year’s ACL, the Chinese side were bombarded by their opponents almost from the get-go. Cleiton caused problems for the youthful Guangzhou defense early on the game, with the Brazilian forcing Wang Tianqing to struck his own crossbar with the ball before feeding Raul Baena with an exquisite corner in the 8th minute, forcing Guangzhou goalie Zhang Jianshi to deny the Spaniard’s attempt.

Kitchee continued on with their pressure as the first half wages on, with Cleiton assisting a Ho Chun-ting shot that struck the side netting before Matt Orr lunges in a header that was caught easily by Zhang.

Guangzhou’s resilience would be undone in the 36th minute, after Zhang Zhihao was judged to have fouled Ho within the penalty area. Damjanovic made no mistake with the ensuing spot kick, beating Zhang easily to make it 1-0 Kitchee with his 39th ACL goal.

The Hong Kong champions continued their dominance into the second half, however they were unable to make their chances count. In the 47th minute, Damjanovic had thought that he had scored a brace, however his effort was cleared off the line by a Guangzhou defender. The ball then made its way to Park Jun-hyung, however the South Korean defender could only strike the crossbar with his effort.

Both Cleiton and Orr then came close with their attempts, however in the end Zhang was not to be beaten for the second time and Kitchee walked away from the encounter with a narrow 1-0 win, a result that kept them in 2nd place behind Cerezo.

Both Kitchee and Guangzhou will resume hostilities at the Chang Arena on July 3rd.