Southeast Asia Vietnam

BGPU Recover to See Off Viettel to Keep Round of 16 Hopes Alive

Monday’s AFC Champions League action saw BG Pathum United mounting an excellent recovery to beat Viettel FC 3-1 at the Leo Stadium, with the Glass Rabbits having finished the first half a goal down. The three points ensured that the Thai champions’ hopes of advancing into the round of 16 remain well and alive, as they tail Group F leaders Ulsan Hyundai who also won on the same day. Defending ACL champions Ulsan had to survive a scare from Kaya FC-Iloilo, playing most of the match with 10 men before edging the Filipinos out 2-1.

Ulsan Hyundai (South Korea) 2-1 Kaya FC-Iloilo (Philippines)

Having won 12 consecutive ACL games coming to their match against the Visayans at the Leo Stadium, Ulsan head coach Hong Myung-bo introduced both Jo Su-huk and Yoon Bit-garam into the fray, with the former making his first ACL appearance since the 2020 final and the latter having recovered from injury. Kaya, on the other hand, gave an ACL debut to academy graduate Zach Banzon, with the 24-year old replacing Louie Casas in the Visayans’ goal.

As expected, favorites Ulsan started the match on the front-foot, with Zach having to make two early saves from Kim Min-jun and Lukas Hinterseer.

Despite dominating proceedings, Ulsan were unable to leave a dent on Kaya’s disciplined defense, until the 27th minute that is. The South Koreans’ persistence was paid off in somewhat the most fortunate of ways – Hinterseer’s powerful shot was deflected into Zach’s goal by Bit-garam’s face. A painful way to score, but nonetheless it gave Ulsan the lead that they deserved.

Disaster then struck for Ulsan in the 31st minute, after Min-jun was shown a straight red for a foul on Marco Casambre.

Seizing the numerical advantage, Kaya slowly pushed Ulsan into a more defensive stance, however try as the Visayans might, they struggle to break down the defending champions’ defenses.

Ending the first half positively, Kaya continued their spirited charge at the Ulsan defense in the second half and their efforts were paid off in the 47th minute. A Ryo Fujii cross was greeted by a powerful volley from Jovin Bedic, with the Kaya captain giving Su-huk no chance at all with his finish.

However, in the 51st minute, Ulsan showed their class and worth as the champions of Asia, and 2020 MVP Bit-garam once again got the better of Zach. This time the former Yanbian Funde player collected an Oh Se-hun pass before unleashing a shot that Zach was powerless to stop, restoring the lead for Ulsan in the process.

With the advantage once again theirs, Ulsan decided to sit back and defended their lead as Kaya kept going forward and forward, the Visayans trying their best to exploit their opponents’ disadvantage in numbers.

Bedic came close to equalizing in the 85th minute after substitute Jesus Melliza had sent him an excellent cross, however the Kaya skipper’s finish let him down as Ulsan held on for the win, a result that also eliminated Kaya from the ACL.

Despite exiting the tournament in the group stages, Kaya left the Leo Stadium pitch with their heads held up high as they managed to give the defending champions a run for their money.

Viettel FC (Vietnam) 1-3 BG Pathum United (Thailand)

Monday’s late kick-off saw the champions of Vietnam and Thailand once again taking on each other at the Leo Stadium. Having lost twice already, 3rd placed Viettel must beat BGPU in order to stand a chance of qualifying out of Group F, while a win for 2nd placed BGPU would allow them to keep Group F leaders Ulsan within their sights.

Despite dominating the first half, with Diogo and Sumanya Purisai threatening Tran Nguyen Manh in the Viettel goal, BGPU were stunned after the Red Tornado took the lead with their only attempt on target in the first half. Former Chiangmai FC man Caique Lemes and former Lampang FC man Pedro Paulo linked up together beautifully to slice open the BGPU defense in the 23rd minute, before Pedro slammed home a powerful shot that left the Glass Rabbits’ goalkeeper Chatchai Budprom utterly beaten.

Diogo was guilty of missing a couple more chances after Viettel’s opener, however in the second half the former Olympiacos, Buriram United, and Johor Darul Ta’zim striker managed to spark the comeback for BGPU.

The Glass Rabbits managed to found their equalizer in the 56th minute, after Diogo had swung in a cross for Chaowat Veerachat to head home past Nguyen Manh – the former Cerezo Osaka man’s second goal against Viettel in his two matches against them.

Diogo then squeezed his creative juices once again in the 60th minute, feeding Andres Tunez with a through pass before the former Venezuela international smashed home into Nguyen Manh’s goal.

Capping off a remarkable nine minutes for BGPU was Diogo himself, who was fed the ball by Veerachat in the 64th minute before he finally got the goal that he deserved, blasting a header beyond Nguyen Manh’s reaches that completed BGPU’s comeback in emphatic fashion.

Viettel tried their best to claw something out of the game but in the end their efforts were in vain. BGPU managed to hang on for all three points that kept their chances of qualifying into the round of 16 alive, while Viettel were eliminated after their third defeat in four games.

Viettel will face Ulsan on July 8th with the Vietnamese hoping that they could throw a spanner into the South Koreans’ hopes for a round of 16 ticket, which BGPU could exploit should they get the better of Kaya on the same day.