Southeast Asia Rest of SEA

Late Jeonnam Goal Breaks United City Hearts

Filipino giants United City FC fought valiantly in their 2022 AFC Champions League opener on Friday, but a late goal from Jeonnam Dragons’ Leonard Pilana condemned the Golden Boys to a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat at the BG Stadium in Pathum Thani, Thailand.

Making their third ACL appearance by virtue of being 2021 Korean FA Cup winners, Jeonnam made their Group G bow on Friday as only the third second-tier side to appear in the ACL proper since the inception of the tournament’s current format back in 2002, after Japan’s Tokyo Verdy in 2006 and Emirates Club of the United Arab Emirates in 2011. Facing-off against a mere K-League 2 side compared to the other top-flight behemoths of East Asian football may had given United City some measure of confidence on-paper, but in reality the Dragons of Jeonnam were no pushovers for the Philippines’ only ACL representative this season.

Anthony Pinthus in the United City goal found himself being the busiest man on the BG Stadium pitch, denying Park In-hyeok in the first half and Kosovan striker Pilana in the second. Jeonnam’s Japanese midfielder Yuhei Sato also saw his effort being thwarted by a stubborn United City backline, this time with South African defender Alan Robertson throwing his body into the line to prevent the ball from entering an open United City goal.

However, both the deadlock and United City hearts were broken in the 87th minute after Pilana found himself having all the time and space within the penalty box, the Kosovan finally beating Pinthus with a well-placed shot from close range to give Jeonnam a winning start to their ACL campaign.

Earlier on Friday, Group G’s other match saw hosts BG Pathum United playing out a 1-1 draw with ACL debutants Melbourne City. Andrew Nabbout had given the Australian champions the lead in the 22nd minute, only for Teerasil Dangda to draw things level for his side in the 35th minute.