Thai champions Muangthong United are looking at flying down a replacement goalkeeper for tomorrow's third-place play-off against the Hong Kong League XI with both their regulars ruled out after the opening day's play in the Lunar New Year Cup on Sunday.
Muangthong, who have qualified for this season's AFC Champions League competition, lost their first-choice goalie Kawin Thammasatchanan just before half-time against Shanghai East Asia and then had their second custodian, Umarin Yaodam, red-carded a few minutes into the second half.
"We are looking at all our options now for the Hong Kong game. But right now we are left without a full-time goalkeeper," said Muangthong coach Slavisa Jokanovic.
Kawin, who is also the custodian with the Thailand national team, injured his leg badly after colliding with Shanghai East Asia's Kofi Dickson, who slid in trying to knock the ball away from the onrushing goalie. Dickson made contact with Kawin's shin, resulting in the Thai being stretchered off in agony. It is now learned that Kawin was badly hurt and will be sidelined for four to six months.
Things went from bad to worse for the Thais, who then lost Umarin. He saw red for handling the ball outside the area as he attempted to cut off opposing striker Zhu Zhengrong. Down to 10 men and without a regular goalie - defender Mongkol Namnuad taking on the duties - Muangthong slipped to a 4-1 defeat at Hong Kong Stadium.
"The first half went very well and I was happy with that. But without a regular goalkeeper in the second half, it was a joke," said a less-than-impressed Jokanovic. "This was the first time I have had all my players together [10 of them were with the Thai national team last week] and this tournament is important to us as it is still pre-season and we wanted to use it as a build-up to what will be an important season for us. But now we have lost our number one goalkeeper."
By virtue of being crowned Thai champions last season, Muangthong qualified for the AFC Champions League, where they are drawn against Guangzhou Evergrande, the Chinese Super League champions, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, of South Korea, and Urawa Reds, of Japan, in the preliminary round.
They will come up against a Hong Kong League XI tomorrow comprising most of the best expatriate players in town. The local team were beaten 3-1 by K-League side Busan IPark in the second game.
Shanghai East Asia, who take on the Korean team in the final, will be hoping to finish the tournament in style and prove that they are worthy of a place at the top table in the Chinese Super League.
Shanghai East Asia were crowned First Division champions last season, earning them a berth in the premier competition.
"Our long-term goal is '6-3-1': to finish in the top six in our first season in the Super League, top three in the second season and then to win it in the third year.
"Tournaments like this give us an idea of where we are right now and it is all about learning and improving," said Shanghai East Asia coach Jiang Bingyao.