Asia East Asia

Kawasaki and Ulsan Share Spoils in ACL Opener

East Asian powerhouses Kawasaki Frontale and Ulsan Hyundai kicked off this season’s AFC Champions League East Zone group stage with a bang as they shared an exciting 1-1 draw at the Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru on Friday. South Korean side Ulsan had taken the lead in the first half and were set to edge out their Japanese counterparts, only for an injury-time strike from Shintaro Kurumaya to dash the Horang-i‘s hopes for three points.

Both Kawasaki and Ulsan were touted to go far in this year’s ACL and Friday’s Group I opener was a repeat of last season’s round of 16 match, which saw then-defending champions Ulsan edging out Japan’s domestic conquerers Kawasaki on penalties after a dramatic match.

This year’s meeting between the two was no less dramatic, with Leo Souza giving Ulsan the lead in the 21st minute after the Brazilian had squeezed his way past Shogo Taniguchi.

Taniguchi, unwilling to let Ulsan get the better of him for a second time, marshaled the Kawasaki defense afterward, withstanding blows from Ulsan who were trying to kill the game off.

At the opposite end of the pitch, Kawasaki intensified their pressure as they seek for an equalizer, with the likes of Leandro Damiao and Kei Chinen testing Jo Hyeon-woo in the Ulsan goal, before the Horang-i‘s fortress finally buckled in the fourth minute of injury time.

Jo fumbled a corner into the path of Kurumaya, who seized upon the opportunity and rifled home Kawasaki’s equalizer with virtually the last touch of the game.

Group I’s other match on Friday saw hosts Johor Darul Ta’zim going ballistic on Chinese giants Guangzhou FC, with the Southern Tigers thrashing the Southern China Tigers 5-0 at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium. JDT’s Bergson was the man of the hour as his hat-trick guided Benjamin Mora’s men to their biggest ACL win to date, albeit against a Guangzhou side who fielded their youth team and left their stars back in China for their domestic campaign.