Daegu FC became the final team to book their AFC Champions League round of 16 ticket on Tuesday as they saw off United City FC 4-0 at the Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent. Victory over the Filipino champions means that Daegu confirmed themselves as one of East Asia’s best three runners-up, with the South Koreans qualifying out of Group I alongside Kawasaki Frontale who thrashed Beijing Guoan 4-0 in Tuesday’s late match.
United City FC (Philippines) 0-4 Daegu FC (South Korea)
Determined to show a respectable performance to close their ACL campaign, already eliminated United City gave Daegu a hard time throughout the first half. With the South Koreans marking their first chance on goal in the 17th minute through Hwang Soon-min, the Filipino champions asked questions of their own at the Daegu defense, testing the men in sky blue four times throughout the opening 45 minutes.
However, it was favorites Daegu who took the lead in the 37th minute, with Tsubasa Nishi beating Hikaru Minegishi to a Cesinha ball before slotting home the opener past Anthony Pinthus in the United City goal.
Three minutes into the second half and the South Koreans doubled their advantage, this time through Lee Keun-ho. The veteran attacker latched onto a headed pass from Jo Jing-woo, managing to stay onside long enough to poke the ball beyond Pinthus’ reaches.
Lee then turned from scorer to creator in the 58th minute, letting Edgar through on goal with a decisive pass that allowed the former Buriram United man to beat Pinthus from 18 metes out.
Substitute Jung Chi-in then confirmed Daegu’s passage to the round of 16 in the 73rd minute, taking advantage of Cesinha’s superb pass to slot home past Pinthus, ensuring that the three points will be going to the South Koreans.
Daegu’s qualification to the round of 16 as Group I runners-up also ended Group J runners-up Kitchee SC’s hopes of progressing into the knockouts, with the Hong Kong champions being tragically eliminated on goal difference compared to Group G runners-up Pohang Steelers, with the two being tied on 11 points. Both Daegu and Pohang will be joined by Group F runners-up BG Pathum United as the three best runners up of the ACL’s East Asia section, with the trio joining the group winners in the knockouts.
Kawasaki Frontale (Japan) 4-0 Beijing Guoan (China)
With their qualification to the round of 16 as Group I winners already being confirmed in advance, Kawasaki head coach Toru Oniki could afford to field the second-stringers for his side’s final group stage match against a young Beijing side at Tashkent’s Lokomotiv Stadium.
The likes of Kaoru Mitoma, Leandro Damiao, Akihiro Ienaga, Ryota Oshima, and Miki Yamane were rested, giving the opportunity to fringe players in Kei Chinen, Kento Tachibananda, Daiya Tono, Ten Miyagi, and Kazuki Kozuka to shine.
Despite fielding what’s effectively their second team, Kawasaki’s quality remained a cut better than their Chinese counterparts, with Beijing goalkeeper Guo Quanbo being forced to work hard early on in the match as Kawasaki went straight on the offensive.
Inevitably, Kawasaki took the lead in the 21st minute, with Chinen seizing upon Zain Issaka’s cross with a shot that rattled the goalposts before the striker pounced on the rebound to put the ball beyond Guo’s reach.
Guo heroically denied both former Oita Trinita loanee Chinen and Miyagi after the first goal, however the young goalkeeper was bested for the second time in the 36th minute.
An incredible mazy run from Miyagi into the Beijing defense from the right flank saw the youngster passed the ball short towards an unmarked Kozuka, with the former Oita midfielder rifling in a powerful first-time shot that left Guo utterly beaten.
Beijing never recovered from that blow and they were trailing further in the 56th minute. A Daiya shot that came off the goalpost was seized perfectly by the player himself, who played the rebounded ball to Miyagi. The 20-year old made no mistake with his first touch as he smashed home Kawasaki’s third of the match.
Kozuka then nailed the final nail on Beijing’s coffin in the 80th minute, curling in an excellent free-kick that was deflected into the Beijing goal by striker Leng Jixuan.
The 4-0 victory ensured that Kawasaki would wrap up their campaign with six wins out of six, and alongside Group F winners Ulsan Hyundai they were the first East Asian team to complete a clean sweep of their ACL group since Kashima Antlers in the 2010 season.
As for Beijing, their ACL campaign may have ended early but the youngsters in green would surely learned a lot of things from their more illustrious peers, which would help them in the long run as they seek to become better footballers with hopes of breaking into the Beijing first team.