ACL 2022: Daegu avenge defeat as Lion City Sailors bow out of ACL in spite of resilient showing

Daegu avenged their Matchday 2 loss, with goals from Lee Keun-ho and Zeca cancelling out Song Ui-Young’s opener to see the Korean side through to the Round of 16 as group winners

Nur Adam in action against Daegu FC in the AFC Champions League. PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

Buriram, Thailand, 30 April 2022 – “We’ve made our mark and people know about us,” said Sailors head coach Kim Do-Hoon in the pre-match press conference.

The Sailors should be proud of a tournament where they established themselves amongst the footballing giants of Asia, despite crashing out of the group-stages after displaying a resilient performance that resulted in a 2-1 defeat to Daegu on Saturday night (April 30) at the Buriram Stadium.

The Sailors finished third in Group F, notching up a total of seven points out of a possible 18 in Asia’s premiere competition including a massive 3-0 win over Daegu in Matchday 2 – the first victory by a Singaporean side in the tournament since 2010.

Renamed as the Lion City Sailors in 2020 and previously known as ‘Home United’, the club’s only previous experience in the AFC Champions League was a second-round exit in 2001.

The Sailors celebrate Song's goal that put them in the lead against Daegu FC. PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

The Sailors fell 4-1 and 6-0 to two-time ACL champions Urawa Red Diamonds and defeated Chinese club Shandong Taishan 3-2 after drawing 0-0 with them previously in their other group-stage fixtures.

Head coach Kim Do-Hoon stuck with a 3-4-3 formation despite a disheartening 6-0 loss to Urawa Red Diamonds on Wednesday (April 27). The trio of Song Ui-Young, Diego Lopes and Maxime Lestienne came in for Adam Swandi, Haiqal Pashia and Amiruldin Asraf respectively.

Both sides needed a win to progress but began the game by constructing their attacks meticulously; focused on not giving the ball away cheaply.

It was Daegu who had the game’s first chances courtesy of a pair of free headers in the opening minutes – first from Brazilian forward Zeca straight into Hassan Sunny’s gloves in the six-yard box, then defender Jo Jinwoo’s header over the crossbar from a Bruno Lamas corner.

Maxime Lestienne in action for the Sailors against Daegu FC, who avenged their match day 2 defeat to the Sailors. PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

The Sailors had the slight advantage in possession but were struggling to penetrate a rigid Daegu defence – also set up in a 3-4-3 shape – with sterile sideways passing, until the breakthrough came from a moment of brilliance in the 26th minute.

Song Ui-Young pounced on a headed clearance, using his chest to bring the ball down into his path, before unleashing a venomous volley from 30 yards out that swerved past goalkeeper Oh Seunghoon’s reach into the bottom corner of the net. It was the Singapore international’s third goal of the tournament.

Club CEO Chew Chun Liang raised both his arms into the air and punched for joy, sent into delirium alongside the Sailors supporters in the stands. It was a case of deja vu. The Sailors were in front by the half hour mark courtesy of a Song goal and held on until the half-time interval.

Daegu came out flying after the break following the introduction of former South-Korean international Lee Keun-ho, who has 84 appearances for his country.

Faris Ramli attempts a shot against Daegu FC in the AFC Champions League. PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

It was the 37-year-old substitute who levelled proceedings just nine minutes after the restart. A whipped cross from deep by left wing-back Hong Chul, also a Korean international, evaded the grasps of Hassan Sunny to leave Lee Keun-ho the opportunity to apply the finishing touch at the far post.

Just as things were starting to look ominous for the Sailors, pouring rain came crashing down as if on cue at the Buriram Stadium. Players started to slip and slide on the turf as conditions worsened, with a waterlogged pitch adding to the unpredictability of the game.

With 14 minutes left on the clock, referee Ahmed Faisal Alali made the decision to suspend the game in light of unplayable conditions – ground passes, shots and clearances were trickling to a stop in many areas of the pitch due to surface water.

After an hour’s delay, Daegu were raring to go and won themselves a controversial penalty in the 79th minute when Sailors defender Amirul Adli was deemed to have hauled down Daegu captain Kim Jinhyuk in the penalty area whilst defending a cross.

Song Ui-Young takes a shot at goal against Daegu FC in the AFC Champions League. PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

Up stepped Zeca, who made no mistake dispatching the resulting spot-kick, sending Hassan Sunny the wrong way to give Daegu the lead.

Crestfallen after their impressive start, the Sailors failed to create further chances to restore parity as Daegu saw out the match after an enthralling encounter.

Sailors head coach Kim Do-Hoon said: “It was a very emotional evening, my boys did amazing. Under the difficult circumstances, they gave everything. It is a very proud moment as a coach. We’re going to move on, play better football and get better.”

“It was a massive experience, we learnt a lot from our maiden campaign. We are going to continue to develop in the domestic league. Hopefully the Sailors’ name will be in the top-tier competition of the continent again very soon.”

Kim Do Hoon's charges will have to regroup for the Singapore Premier League when they take on Hougang United in the next match. PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

“There is still a big gap to the rest of Asia – in terms of the performance, attitude and players’ personality on the pitch – but we have reduced the gap even though there is a long way to go. We know what we need to do to get there,” he added.

Coach Kim lavished praise on goalscorer Song Ui-Young for his ‘absolutely brilliant’ performance: “Honestly he showed a much improved performance than in the domestic league. He scored a superb goal tonight. As a coach this is when you realise you are doing your job well when players shine on the pitch in such an important tournament. I’m proud and I want to say thank you to him and the rest of the boys.”

Song Ui-Young who has been the Sailors’ stand-out performer throughout the competition was indignant in defeat.

“I just wanted to do my best for my team but unfortunately, we lost. It is frustrating but it is what it is. It was a hard fight and I’m really proud of my teammates. If we have the opportunity to play in this competition next time, we will do our best to qualify from the group stages,” he said.

Daegu FC are group F winners following their 2-1 win over the Sailors, who finish third. PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

The Sailors will regroup for the Singapore Premier League which resumes next Friday (May 6), when they will take on Hougang United at the Hougang Stadium at 7.45pm local time.

#SportPlusSG #Football #AFCChampionsLeague #SingaporeFootball