Asia AFC Champions League

Sergeev Bags Hat-Trick for the Glass Rabbits as Oscar’s Shanghai Port Dumped Out of ACL

Uzbekistan international Igor Sergeev was the man of the hour for Thailand’s BG Pathum United as his hat-trick helped his side to a shock 3-2 win away at Chinese giants Shanghai Port in Tuesday’s AFC Champions League qualifying play-off.

The 2023 ACL campaign saw the first time that the competition’s games are played in China following the pandemic, and this means that Chinese representatives could finally field their strongest lineup after spending the past few seasons fielding their youth teams for their continental commitments.

Shanghai Port were no exceptions and they came into Tuesday’s match as favorites, with the likes of former Chelsea maestro Oscar and Chinese national team star Wu Lei present in the Chinese giants’ starting lineup. They also came into the match in good form and are currently leading the Chinese Super League table with a 12-point advantage over 2nd placed Shandong Taishan.

BGPU, on the other hand, could only muster two points from their opening two games of the 2023/24 Thai League 1 season, leading to new head coach Thongchai Sukkoki being in immense pressure coming into the encounter.

But, as if throwing their form book out of the window, it was the Glass Rabbits of BGPU who managed to nick the lead in the 12th minute.

Former Pakhtakor striker Sergeev was brought in by BGPU thanks to his experience playing at the highest level of Asian club football that is the ACL, and the 30-year old put that experience into good use by smashing home a Teerasil Dangda ball for the opener.

BGPU then made it 2-0 in the 26th minute, after a block from Lu Wenjun saw the ball falling into the possession of the predatory Sergeev, who once again beat Yan Junling in the Shanghai Port goal.

Shanghai Port pushed forward in an effort to reduce their deficit and their fight-back paid off in the 31st minute after Mirahmetjan Muzepper had beaten BGPU goalkeeper Chatchai Budprom to ensure that the hosts are still in the game coming into the break.

However, BGPU retained their high tempo into the second half, leading to the Glass Rabbits once again regaining their two-goal advantage in the 61st minute. An Apisit Sorada through pass was deflected onto the path of Sergeev, who completed his hat-trick with a powerful shot that left Junling completely beaten.

Substitute Markus Pink clawed one back for Shanghai Port in the 86th minute, but in the end it was too little too late as BGPU held on for a famous win and with it, a spot in the ACL group stages.

Fellow Thai League 1 side Port FC weren’t so fortunate, however.

Taking on Zhejiang FC, who finished third in their first campaign back in the Chinese Super League last season, Port had to succumb to a 1-0 defeat courtesy of a Franko Andrijasevic goal in the 51st minute. The Lions of Khlong Toei were made to pay for their overly-cautious approach in the first half and their inability to keep up with Zhejiang’s increased aggression in the second half as they were edged out by a side making their return to the ACL group stages for the first time since 2011.