Football: Lion City Sailors held to goal-less ACL draw with Shandong Taishan

Lion City Sailors' Kim Shin-Wook in action with Shandong Taishan's Zhang Yingkai. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Lion City Sailors coach Kim Do-hoon was seething on Thursday night (April 21) after watching his players fail to break down Shandong Taishan in their Asian Football Confederation Champions League Group F game, which ended 0-0 at the Buriram City Stadium in Thailand.

The draw later proved even more costly after group rivals Daegu FC beat Urawa Red Diamonds 1-0 to move top on goal difference over the Japanese side, who also have six points.

Said the 51-year-old Kim: “It was a game where we could have lost all three points, and we were lucky to pick up one point.

“Just because we won against Daegu FC (3-0) in our last game, it doesn’t mean we are playing at the top level of the continent.

“If you’re not humble, if you’re stubborn, if you’re naive, this is the price we pay. It is a very expensive lesson that we are learning tonight.

“We cannot say it was an unlucky day at the office. We didn’t play. We were not on the pitch and I really want to apologise to our fans.”

While he did not comment on the decision to send home defender Tajeli Salamat and midfielder M. Anumanthan for breaking “team regulations”, he demanded a better showing for the next match against Shandong on Sunday.

Last night, up against a reserve side with no imports – their oldest player was 22 – the Singapore Premier League champions dropped two points despite having more than 70 per cent of possession. 

Kim made just one change from the starting line-up that excelled against Daegu FC on Monday, as Gabriel Quak came in for Tajeli.

The Singaporean side eked out four corners in the first half, but neither Hariss Harun nor Pedro Henrique could convert Shahdan Sulaiman’s deliveries.

Shandong’s youngsters were pegged back but mustered one good effort when Jin Nuo went on a solo run in the 21st minute and shot into the side netting.

Sailors striker Kim Shin-wook, who is nursing a muscle injury, was brought on in the second half. 

The former South Korea captain tested goalkeeper Cao Zheng and Brazilian playmaker Diego Lopes headed wide in the 77th minute, but ultimately Shandong held on for the draw. 

Failure to beat a side who had conceded 12 goals and scored none in their previous two matches makes the Sailors’ return fixture against Shandong on Sunday essentially a must-win if they want to stay in the hunt for a historic qualification into the knockout rounds.

Skipper Hariss said: “We knew they would be very defensive, and the onus was on us to break them down. 

“We tried but it wasn’t good enough. We were heavy today... 

“We lacked combinations going forward and we were not clinical enough from set plays today. 

“We know we have the quality. This is a lesson learnt and we have to believe we can do better.”

Meanwhile in Group G, Thai giants BG Pathum United – who started Singaporean defender Irfan Fandi and had striker Ikhsan Fandi on the bench – thumped Filipino side United City 5-0 to move top after three games.

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