Ambitious big-spending Singaporean side Lion City Sailors received a harsh welcome to the AFC Champions League on Friday as they dropped their Group F opener, losing 4-1 to Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds at the Chang Arena in Buriram.
By virtue of winning the 2021 Singapore Premier League, Lion City Sailors became only the third Singaporean side to play in the AFC Champions League after Warriors FC and Tampines Rovers. In preparation for Asia’s premier club competition, the Sailors had done their homework – ACL-winning head coach Kim Do-hoon and Brazilian midfielder Diego Lopes were retained from last season, while another ACL veteran in striker Kim Shin-wook, as well as former Belgium youth international Maxime Lestienne, were brought in during the off-season, alongside local talents in Anumanthan Kumar and Izwan Mahbud.
However, the reinforcements were no match for a Urawa side that had lifted the ACL trophy twice in 2007 and 2017, as the 2021 Emperor’s Cup champions gave LCS a taste of what kind of gap the Singaporeans must bridge if they wish to be the best in Asia.
Kasper Junker gave Urawa the lead in the 8th minute, before Ataru Esaka made it 2-0 seven minutes afterward. The tie was then put beyond doubt after David Karlsson made it 3-0 Urawa in the 42nd minute, however, shortly afterward the Swede inadvertently gave LCS some hope after his backpass ended up going past Zion Suzuki in the Urawa goal.
Despite this slight setback, Urawa’s three points were pretty much confirmed only 90 seconds into the second half after Yusuke Matsuo rifled in from close range past LCS goalie Hassan Sunny.
Group F’s early kick-off saw South Korea’s Daegu FC thrashing Chinese champions Shandong Taishan 7-0 at the Khao Kradong Stadium. Fielding their youngsters and without Belgian star Marouane Fellaini within their ranks, Shandong was no match for Alexandre Gama’s Daegu side, with Zeca bagging a hat-trick for the men in sky blue. The likes of Bruno Lamas, Hong Chul, Lee Keun-ho, and Jung Chi-in also pitched in with a goal apiece.