Lion City Sailors notch rare win for Singapore teams in AFC Champions League

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Lion City Sailors players celebrate after defeating Daegu FC 3-0 in their AFC Champions League Group F match in Buriram, Thailand. (PHOTO: Lion City Sailors/Facebook)
Lion City Sailors players celebrate after defeating Daegu FC 3-0 in their AFC Champions League Group F match in Buriram, Thailand. (PHOTO: Lion City Sailors/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — In their debut AFC Champions League campaign, reigning Singapore Premier League (SPL) champions Lion City Sailors got their maiden victory after stunning South Korean side Daegu FC 3-0 in Buriram, Thailand, on Monday (18 April).

It was the first victory by a Singapore side in the premier Asian football club competition since 2010, when the now-dormant Warriors FC defeated Chinese club Henan Jianye 2-1 in the group stage.

“Tonight will be long remembered as a historic night,” said the Sailors' Korean coach Kim Do-hoon.

“The key was for my players to be confident in their ability. We expected it to be tough. What was on my mind was not to concede too many and see how the game goes, but my boys gave everything on the pitch and executed according to how we prepared.”

The Sailors' win puts them second in Group F with three points after two matches, after they began the campaign with a 1-4 defeat by Japan side Urawa Red Diamonds last Friday. They are level on points with Daegu - who had thrashed China's Shandong Taishan 7-0 in their opening group match - but have the better head-to-head record.

The three best runners-up in the five east region groups will join the group winners in the round-of-16.

Against Daegu - who finished third in the top-tier K League 1 last year - the Sailors opened accounts in the 21st minute, when midfielder Song Ui-young cut in between two defenders and met Belgian winger Maxime Lestienne's cross with a header which looped over goalkeeper Choi Young-eun and into goal.

With the one-goal advantage, the Sailors sat back and defended effectively to keep the Daegu players at bay, before striking again in the 63rd minute through a quick counter-attack. Diego Lopes - the Sailors' most expensive signing - stormed forward in the centre of the pitch, laying it on for Lestienne before thumping home the Belgian's pin-point cutback.

Defender Pedro Henrique added a third in the 80th minute, heading home Shahdan Sulaiman's corner. And Daegu's night got worse in the 89th minute when defender Hong Chul was red-carded for a poor challenge on Song.

The Sailors will face Shandong in their next two Champions League matches on Thursday and Sunday.

Their Champions League win on Monday capped a stellar night for Southeast Asian teams against South Korean sides in the competition, as Thai side BG Pathum United defeated Jeonnam Dragons 2-0 in Group G, while Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta'zim beat Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 in Group I.

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