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AFC Champions League

Cheating plane and simple? Guangzhou Evergrande flight diverted ahead of vital Champions League clash in Thailand

Airport closure leads to speculation of shenanigans surrounding visiting teams – with both clubs having been accused before

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2018, 12:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2018, 12:46pm

Seven-time Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande have faced a battle to get to their AFC Champions League group G game with Thai League 1 winners Buriram United.

The twice champions of Asia were meant to fly direct to Buriram airport but the newly international-class airport was closed on Monday because of a downed Nok Air plane blocking its sole runway, according to the Bangkok Post.

While the airport was scheduled to reopen today, that was too late for the visiting Chinese side and they had to instead fly to Roi Et before making their way overland to the capital of Buriram province – a journey of 150km.

The closing of the airport ahead of the arrival of Fabio Cannavaro’s side has led to speculation that it might not have been a coincidence. The hosts sit second, three points behind Evergrande in the table. A win would see them keep pace with Evergrande and make sure that qualification for the knockout round would be in their hands during their final game away to Jeju United on April 17, no matter the result of Cererzo Osaka’s visit to south China.

This is not the first time that Buriram have been accused of shenanigans in an effort to seek advantage over the away side, with Esteghlal complaining that their players were kept up all night by fans ahead of their quarter final meeting in 2013.

Evergrande also have from in this regard. Last season Shanghai SIPG manager Andre Villas-Boas cried foul when the same car apparently had several accidents in front of their team coach as it made its way to the quarter-final meeting at Hengda Stadium and accused the home side of orchestrating it.

Shanghai SIPG boss accuses Guangzhou Evergrande of staging car crashes to delay his side before Champions League clash

The former Chelsea and Porto boss, who left SIPG at the end of the season, was censured by the AFC for his comments.

Buriram famously beat Evergrande in their first Champions League campaign in 2012.

Tuesday’s game at Chang Arena kicks off at 7pm (Hong Kong time).