Southeast Asia Thailand

Five-Star Cerezo Maintains Group J Control as Orr Knocks Port Out

Cerezo Osaka maintained their dominance over Group J after a much-changed side thrashed Guangzhou FC 5-0 at the Chang Arena on Tuesday. The win inched Cerezo closer to a round of 16 ticket, while Port FC’s own aspirations for the knockout stages were snuffed out on Tuesday’s late kick-off after a Matt Orr equalizer forced the Lions of Khlong Toei to play out a 1-1 draw with Kitchee SC.

Cerezo Osaka (Japan) 5-0 Guangzhou FC (China)

Only Ryuya Nishio retained his place in the Cerezo starting lineup as head coach Levir Culpi made 10 changes to the full-strength team that saw off Port 3-0 in the previous match, with Vietnamese goalkeeper Dang Van Lam receiving his first ACL start with the men in pink.

Former Muangthong United goalkeeper Van Lam was virtually a pedestrian in the Cerezo goal as the Japanese side utterly dominated their Chinese opposition, with Guangzhou counterpart Zhang Jianshi being the busier of the two goalkeepers. Only Cerezo’s profligacy in the first 30 minutes kept Guangzhou in the game, with the likes of Riki Matsuda and Hiroto Yamada missing their mark.

Eventually it was Mutsuki Kato who found a way past Zhang in the 33rd minute, with the 23-year old latching onto a Riki cross with a spectacular sliding volley that left Zhang utterly beaten and speechless.

The floodgates well and truly opened in the second half, with Zhang being beaten for a second time in the 52nd minute. Toshiyuki Takagi allowed Yuta Koike into the Guangzhou penalty area, before Koike provided the ball to Taishi Matsumoto who finished things off to make it 2-0 Cerezo.

Koike then worked his magic once again in the 67th minute, providing the vital cross from a corner that was headed into Zhang’s goal by substitute Tiago Pagnussat.

Taishi then bagged his brace in the 72nd minute, receiving the perfect ball from Riki before rifling a shot into Zhang’s goal to make it 4-0 Cerezo, before Guangzhou came close to scoring their first goal in the campaign after Huang Kaizhou’s shot went agonizingly wide.

In the end it was Cerezo who had the final say, with Mutsuki killing off the game there and there with a brace of his own in the second minute of injury time.

Port FC (Thailand) 1-1 Kitchee SC (Hong Kong)

Tuesday’s late match at the Chang Arena saw a do-or-die battle between Port and Kitchee, with Port desperately needing a win to keep their ACL hopes alive, while Kitchee are plotting something that was quite unthinkable when this year ACL’s East Asian section group stages were first played – overthrowing Cerezo from the summit of Group J.

With a burning desire to beat Cerezo for a direct berth to the round of 16, Kitchee pressed forward almost straight away after the referee had blown for kick-off, however the Hong Kong champions’ aggressiveness would soon became their undoing in the 13th minute.

A foul from Dejan Damjanovic at the edge of the Kitchee penalty area resulted in Port being awarded a free-kick, which was executed beautifully by Pakorn Prempak, with the ball sliding its way beyond the reaches of Kitchee goalkeeper Paulo Cesar.

1-0 Port and the Lions of Khlong Toei have their all-important lead. Should they see this through or even add more to their advantage, then Port’s hopes of qualifying out of Group J are alive for another matchweek.

However, Orr had other things to say in the 18th minute, with the Hong Kong international taking advantage of a Cleiton corner to head home the equalizer past Port goalkeeper Watchara Buathong.

Parity restored and now Kitchee has the advantage.

Boosted by their equalizer, Kitchee piled on the pressure on Port once more, with Orr heading wide and Damjanovic missing his target after some excellent service from the part New Zealander.

Port captain David Rochela managed to slide home past Cesar after another free-kick from Pakorn, however the referee ruled the Spaniard’s effort out for offside, before a similar offside call denied Damjanovic his 41st ACL goal after he had gotten the better of Watchara in the 51st minute.

Try as Port might, the Lions of Khlong Toei were unable to find a way past Cesar and the Kitchee defense, with the Hong Kongers defending well to claim a valuable point that would help them in their quest for the knockout rounds. The 1-1 draw, on the other hand, ensured that Port’s ACL adventure would end in the group stages.

The stage is set for July 9th’s crunch tie, with Cerezo going up against Kitchee at the Chang Arena for a spot in the round of 16, while Port will take on Guangzhou on the same day as they seek to end their ACL campaign on a high.