Thailand’s Chonburi crush South China’s AFC Champions League dreams
Caroliners will now focus on AFC Cup after 3-0 rout by Chonburi in Champions League
The dream is over for South China. Up against Chonburi FC, a team whose season hadn’t even begun, they were thumped 3-0 in the second round of the AFC Champions League play-off in Thailand on Sunday night.
South China had hoped to take the direct path into the region’s top club championship but their elimination will mean they will now have to go back and try to qualify through the AFC Cup, the second-tier club competition, which begins later this month. They will be joined in it by Hong Kong rivals Kitchee.
By rights, Chonburi should have been rusty, or at least have shown some awkwardness on the ball with this being the first competitive game of their season. Instead they ran rings around the Hong Kong champions to march into the final deciding play-off match against Beijing Guoan next Saturday.
“This was our second match on the road in eight days and it seemed to take a toll on the players. But I’m happy with the effort they gave, although it is disappointing to be knocked out,” said South China coach Andy Cheung Po-chun.
“We will need to bounce back quickly for the AFC Cup competition, which will start at the end of this month.”
Judging from the last two performances – a stuttering 2-1 win over Tampines Rovers of Singapore in the first round in the play-offs and Sunday's rout – it seems South China are suited to the second tier at Asian club level.
Chonburi joined their fellow Thai club Muangthong United in the last round of the play-offs, underlining the strength of the Thai domestic league. But both teams face tough opposition: Muangthong face Australian A-League team Melbourne Victory in their play-off game.
South China were outclassed by Chonburi, who had previously knocked them out in the group stages of the AFC Cup competition in 2011.
On that occasion, too, Chonburi defeated South China 3-0, both home and away.
Both Chonburi goals in the first half came off headers from captain Pibop On-mo – the smallest man on the field – and Brazilian Thiago dos Santos.
South China needed to come out of the blocks fast in the second half but it was Santos who delivered the blow when he ran on to a lovely through ball and rounded Yapp before chipping the ball into an empty goal to complete a brace.