SINGAPORE - In a season where both teams are expected to fight tooth and nail for all domestic honours, former South Korean captain Kim Shin-wook and ex-Japan international Tadanari Lee showed on their debuts why they will play leading roles for their clubs this year.
Both strikers scored on Saturday (Feb 19) but it was Kim who had the last laugh as his brace secured a 2-1 win for the Lion City Sailors over Albirex Niigata in the 2022 Community Shield.
The pair have arrived here with top resumes and offered glimpses of their quality in front of the 983 spectators inside the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Lee, 36, has 11 international caps and two goals, one of which was the memorable extra-time winner against Australia in the 2011 Asian Cup final. Kim, 33, has won the Asian Champions League twice and joined the Singapore Premier League (SPL) champions Sailors on a three-year deal understood to be worth more than $3 million.
It took Lee just 14 minutes to make his mark for last season's SPL runners-up Albirex. His nifty footwork inside the box drew a foul from Sailors' Shahdan Sulaiman, leading referee Jansen Foo to award a penalty which Lee himself duly dispatched.
The Japanese club continued to dominate possession and six minutes later, almost doubled their lead only for Keito Hariya's header to cannon off the bar.
With his team starved off the ball, Kim cut a frustrated figure in the opening half hour and was lucky not to be booked after a late tackle on Albirex left-back Daichi Omori in the 31st minute.
But he showed why he has more than 100 career goals in the South Korean league as he netted the equaliser in the 41st minute with his first attempt of the match.
The 1.98m forward found space in between Albirex's centre-backs and connected perfectly with Tajeli Salamat's cross.
Lee almost restored the White Swans lead but his 58th-minute shot was saved by Hassan Sunny, who also produced two other good saves in the second half.
Instead, it was Kim who proved to be the matchwinner. His acrobatic effort with three minutes left flew past Albirex goalkeeper Takahiro Koga to complete the come-from-behind victory.
The first trophy of the season belongs to the Sailors and it will be a shock if it is the last.
Lee and Kim were signed to score goals and both did on their debuts and looked impressive in different ways.
Albirex are known for their high-intensity style and despite his age, Lee appears suited for this approach. He constantly stretched the Sailors' backline with his running and his all-action play bodes well for his new club.
In contrast, Kim's action was all in the box. He was rarely part of the build-up play and limited himself to few touches when in possession. But he clearly knows how to deliver where it matters - in front of goal.