Football: Lion City Sailors rebound to beat Shandong Taishan 3-2 in ACL

Lion City Sailors midfielder Song Ui-young (7) celebrates after scoring the opener in his team's AFC Champions League Group F win over China's Shandong Taishan. PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

SINGAPORE - The Lion City Sailors have steadied the ship and gotten their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League Group F campaign back on track, beating China’s Shandong Taishan 3-2 at the Buriram Stadium in Thailand on Sunday (April 24).

After being held to a goal-less draw by the same opponents last Thursday, the Singapore Premier League champions made three changes to their starting line-up. They brought in Kim Shin-wook, Haiqal Pashia and Nur Adam Abdullah in place of Maxime Lestienne, Faris Ramli and Amirul Adli as they switched to a back four.

But again, they initially found it hard to break down a reserve Shandong side – an Under-22 side with no imports – who were content to sit back with a low block, as goalkeeper Cao Zheng made a few good saves.

South Korea-born midfielder Song Ui-young headed in the opener from Haiqal’s cross in the second minute of first-half added time. Pedro Henrique then nodded in their second goal on the hour mark off Gabriel Quak’s corner. Like Song, the Brazilian defender had scored in last Monday’s 3-0 win over Daegu FC.

The Sailors had to endure a nervy end after skipper Hariss Harun conceded a penalty when he hauled back his Shandong counterpart Lu Yongtao, who picked himself up to send Hassan Sunny the wrong way from the spot in the 76th minute.

Song set up substitute Lestienne to net the 82nd-minute clincher, before Liu Guobao rifled a consolation into the top corner late on.

Sailors coach Kim Do-hoon congratulated his side for their second win during Ramadan, when his Muslim players are fasting, amid six matches in 16 days.

He added: “Today we made some good chances playing as a team, which is something we improved in the past two days over training. It was also a good lesson learnt that if we lose our focus late in the game, we will concede. 

“We will learn from this to prepare for the final two group games, improve and become stronger... The two remaining matches are going to be tough, but we are going to play and see where we end up.”

Man of the match Song added: “We know how strong Urawa and Daegu are, but we will prepare with the aim of winning six points against them.”

In the earlier Group F match, Urawa Red Diamonds and Daegu played out a 0-0 stalemate, leaving them bunched with the Sailors on seven points after four matches.

This means that even if they fail to beat the Diamonds on Wednesday – they lost 4-1 on April 15 – the Sailors are assured of finishing second if they can beat Daegu again on Saturday. They will then hope to be among the three best runners-up in the five East region groups to become the first Singapore side to qualify for the knockout round of this competition.

There was also joy for Singapore striker Ikhsan Fandi, who had a brace in BG Pathum’s 3-1 win over Filipino team United City as the Thai side continue to lead Group G.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.