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AFC Champions League

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in pole position after cruising past Kitchee in AFC Champions League drubbing

Pointless Hong Kong Premier League champions humbled by South Koreans but coach Chu remains upbeat as he sees his side ‘improving’ at this level

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 11:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 11:43pm

It was meant to be Kitchee’s big night but dreams of a first AFC Champions League victory for a Hong Kong side were swiftly put to bed by South Korean cham­pions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in a 6-0 drubbing at Hong Kong ­Stadium on Tuesday night.

After the match, Kitchee coach Chu Chi-kwong stayed upbeat.

“Even though they lost, credit to the players. They lost a goal through a penalty so early and that set the course of the game,” he said. “In the second half they were good – they tried to compete.”

The Kitchee diehards had the full songbook going from the kick-off, and were booing the Koreans at every touch but it took just four minutes for the visitors to score.

Moments after the home crowd had left their seats to cheer on a Diego Forlan free kick, the ball was up the other end. Flicked on by big number nine Kim Shin-wook and not dealt with by the Kitchee defence, Lo Kwan-yee was adjudged to have brought down Lee Seung-gi. Jeonbuk’s new Brazilian signing Adriano made no mistake from the spot despite the best of intentions from goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng.

Adriano top scored in this competition in 2016 for FC Seoul and he didn’t need to be asked twice to put himself in the early running for regaining his title of the continent’s golden boot when he added his second barely 10 minutes later. Two fine saves from Wang in the build-up for the goal counted for little as the Brazilian tapped home.

It was a goal that Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee admitted was an “important factor” helped in part by their “aggressive” approach from the outset.

Just 25 minutes into the match, it was game over, although the fans still pouring through the turnstiles in the North Stand may not have appreciated that.

Kitchee had promised a sell-out crowd at the stadium for their first AFC Champions League home game and some of the newcomers in the 13,591 crowd clearly didn’t know what time to get there.

The Kitchee faithful stayed in fine voice and were not silenced despite a long-range drive from Lee Jin-su stretching the score line to ­3-0, nor when the Koreans lead ­became four goals after a cross from the same wingback was headed in by Thiago. Jeonbuk rounded out the half with their fifth and Adriano’s hat-trick through another penalty ­– again coming from a foul on Lee Seung-gi.

Rather than an exercise in damage limitation, the restart saw Kitchee attempt to threaten the comeback that the crowd had sung for. As the game went on the better chances fell to the hosts, with Alex coming into the match more and testing Jeonbuk’s debutant keeper Song Bum-kuen.

There was time for one more goal but sadly for Kitchee it went to the visitors. Lee Dong-gook scored with the last kick of the game, poking home after an Adriano through ball to leave both players with three goals in the competition already.

Adriano was man of the match on his debut after sitting out the club’s game last week but the Brazilian was modest, saying “the most important thing was that the team won.”

In the group’s other game Kashiwa Reysol were held at home 1-1 by Tianjin Quanjian. Alexandre Pato’s late strike cancelled out Cristiano’s opener, after the Kashiwa man had earlier missed a penalty. Anthony Modeste nearly snatched it at the death for the visitors.

Kitchee’s next game is against the Japanese side in Kashiwa on March 6 before hosting them at Hong Kong Stadium eight days later. Kitchee’s final home game is against Tianjin Quanjian on April 4 before facing Jeonbuk in South Korea on April 18.

Coach Chu retains modest goals for the team, hoping they get better in every game at this level: “I just want to keep improving as a coach and as a team.”