Asia AFC Champions League

Ventforet Topple Thunder Castles in Historic Win

J.League 2 side Ventforet Kofu recorded continental history on Wednesday after a last-minute goal from Motoki Hasegawa helped them to a 1-0 win over perennial Thai champions Buriram United, marking their first-ever win in the AFC Champions League.

Playing in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Tokyo’s National Stadium which consisted of not only Ventforet fans, but also fans of other J.League teams, Buriram threatened the home side first in the 6th minute through a shot from Supachai Chaided that blazed over Michael Woud’s goal.

New Zealand goalie Woud, who joined Ventforet on-loan from J.League 1 side Kyoto Sanga, had little to do throughout the first half, with his next call of action coming in the 25th minute. A corner from Theerathon Bunmathan was punched away by Woud, only for Ratthanakorn Maikami to rifle in the rebound. Fortunately for Ventforet, Woud was still alert and the New Zealander managed to palm away the incoming threat.

Lonsana Doumbouya narrowly missed the target with his header from the ensuing corner, prompting last season’s Emperor’s Cup champions Ventforet to shift towards a more defensive stance as the half progressed.

Ventforet’s veteran striker Peter Utaka was unable to find the mark from a Masahiro Sekiguchi cross in the 32nd minute, as the hosts sought to catch Buriram off guard on the counter. However, as the first half came to a close, it was Yoshiyuki Shinoda’s Ventforet side that seemed more content with the goalless scoreline.

The hosts launched into the second half with much gusto, producing their most promising opportunity in the 52nd minute. Center-back Kaito Kamiya’s deft header from a Kazuhiro Sato free-kick forced Buriram goalkeeper Siwarak Tedsungnoen, into a fingertip save.

Arthur Papas’ Thunder Castles also came close from a set-piece chance five minutes later, with Kim Min-hyeok’s header from Theerathon’s delivery being blocked by goalkeeper Woud from close range. Pansa Hemviboon’s attempt was then cleared off the line by the Ventforet defense.

Shion Inoue’s acrobatic attempt in the 66th minute went straight into the arms of the Buriram goalkeeper, while Doumbouya’s less powerful header shortly after was comfortably gathered by Woud at the other end.

Fueled by the passionate fans in the stands, both their own as well as the rest of the J.League, Ventforet finished the game with a flourish, striking the woodwork in the 88th minute with a header from Nakamura off a Hasegawa corner. They secured a historic victory in the 90th minute when Hasegawa’s forceful header found the back of the net, leaving Siwarak rooted in his spot.