Buriram open 2nd round with 2-1 win over Bunyodkor
BURIRAM, Thailand (AP) — Buriram United overcame some off-field distractions to beat Uzbek powerhouse Bunyodkor 2-1 on Tuesday to kick off the second round of the Asian Champions League.
The first Thai club in a decade to advance past the group stage in the continental tournament, Buriram had to regroup quickly after manager Atthaphol Puspakom was fired despite guiding them into the knockout rounds.
Midfielder Anawin Jujeen opened the scoring with a header in the 18th minute but two-time semifinalist Bunyodkor equalized just before half time via substitute Igor Taran’s well-timed volley.
Ekkachai Sumrei clinched the win with a glancing header in the 77th, giving Buriram a one-goal cushion ahead next week’s away match at Tashkent. Bunyodkor had been unbeaten in the six group matches to progress to the second round in the ACL for the sixth consecutive season.
New Burirum coach Scott Cooper was in charge in an Asian Champions League match for the first time. He replaced long-time manager Atthaphol after the club progressed to the knockout round with a dramatic 2-2 draw against FC Seoul in the last of group match.
In the other eastern zone match, FC Seoul hung on for a 0-0 draw against Beijing Guoan despite playing the last half hour with 10 men. The K-League champions were short-handed after Choi Hyo-jin picked up two yellow cards in eight minutes, but withstood all the pressure Guoan could apply in a confidence-boosting away draw.
In western zone matches at Doha, Saudi club Al Shabab came from behind to defeat Qatari-based Al Gharafa 2-1, and El Jaish of Qatar drew 1-1 with Saudi giant Al Ahli.
Saudia Arabia forward Nasser Al Shamrani finished confidently in the 83rd minute to give Al Shabab the away win, racing onto a through ball that caught Gharafa’s defense short and scoring with a right-foot strike that was too good for goalkeeper Qasem Burhan.
“We got a positive result because we went into the match with a clear strategy, which was to get a positive result before the second leg in Riyadh,” Al Shabab coach Michel Preud’homme said. “The players put on a good performance tonight and managed to get an important win. We conceded a goal in the first half which came due to confusion in defense and lack of good coverage.
“The result should not fool us because there is still another match and we haven’t qualified yet.”
Veteran Australia midfielder Mark Bresciano opened the scoring in the 42nd for Al Gharafa after being picked out by French striker Djibril Cisse, who is on loan from Queens Park Rangers.
Eleven minutes after the restart, Al Shabab equalized when Sebastian Tagliabue curled the ball beyond a diving Burhan.
At Al-Rayyan Stadium, Al Ahli led when Motaz Almosa’s towering header from Mansour Al Harbi’s cross found the back of the net in first-half stoppage time. But last year’s finalists were denied victory when El Jaish captain Anderson capitalized on a defensive mistake to level in the 76th.
“Al Ahli were the better side tonight but we managed to get a good result,” El Jaish coach Razvan Lucescu said. “We lost the ball easily in the first half and we didn’t build the attack quickly, and Al Ahli’s goal put more pressure on us. While in the second half, we changed the formation and we managed to score the equalizer.”
“The draw is a positive result for us looking at the fact that we had difficult circumstances before and during the match,” said Al Ahli coach Aleksandar Ilic.