Match day three of Asian Champions league Group G saw a severely weakened Eastern team fall 1-0 to the K League giants, Suwon Samsung Bluewings.
Eastern were without Manuel Bleda, Diego Eli and also reliable mainstays Xu Deshaui and Ju Yingzhi so they faced an uphill task against the Bluewings. Yet, Eastern again took advantage of the narrow confines of Mong Kok stadium and played an impressive game as a defensive unit.
ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Suwon Samsung Bluewings 1
For all Eastern’s heroics, a header from Johnathan in the 78th minute was enough for the Bluewings to secure their first win in the group which leaves them tied with Guangzhou Evergrande on 5 points though still behind on goal difference. In cold temperatures and light rain, Mong Kok stadium was again packed to the rafters with a large contingent of Suwon away fans adding to the atmosphere.
The Suwon Bluewing’s number 9, Park Gidong, started the game strongly for the visitors and was physically much stronger than the Eastern players and he proved to be a handful for the Eastern players. Park Gidong made his presence known in the 5th minute as he hassled and harried the Eastern defence enough to let Santos Junior have a scuffed and loose shot off target.
In the 6th minute, a lovely through ball by Damir Sovsic of Suwon unlocked the Eastern defence but to no avail. Kim Minwoo and Kwak Kwangsun often linked up for clever wing play on the left and their deft one twos created a few crossing opportunities for the former. In the 18th minute, Kim Minwoo placed another fine cross from which Santos Junior blasted over.
The flow of the game saw Suwon Bluewings dominate the first ten minutes with Suwon having great interplay and one touch passing with Eastern unable to get a real hold of the ball or even make any headway into Suwon’s half. The rest of the first half saw excellent defensive play from Cheung Kin Ho and Tsang Kam To. The duo tracked and marked the attacking Suwon threat well so Suwon’s chances became fewer and far between.
Jaimes McKee, playing as a lone striker, had little to no chance to see the ball in the first half and Eastern only had free-kicks and goal kicks from Eastern keeper Yapp Hung Fai as a form of attack. In the 31st minute, Yapp was called into action when he saved a hard drive from Damir Sovsic from outside of the Eastern box and Yapp’s one handed save resulted in a corner. The resulting corner was scrambled away by Eastern after a loose ball let slip by Yapp. Santo’s Junior had another chance in the 33rd minute which was again saved by Yapp. Roberto , Mitchell, Wong Tsz Ho all marshalled the defence well and Suwon were often left frustrated.
Eastern’s safe defensive strategy often saw the Eastern winger, Lee Hong Lim, defending deep whilst Mckee battled alone with up to three to four defenders tracking him anytime he got into the Suwon half. Bai He was excellent as a defensive midfielder who chased down all attacking threats. Half time saw the two teams all square with Eastern being the more satisfied with their performance.
The second half saw the game slow down with the light rain making playing conditions very difficult. Jaimes McKee had a glorious chance to give Eastern the lead but his close range shot, after a cross from Cheng Kin Ho, was blocked. In the 77th minute, Johnathan Da Silva gave Suwon the lead with a well placed header and Eastern had to chase the game from there. Wong Tsz Ho made an outstanding challenge in the 87th minute in what was a three on one break away from Suwon. With the clock ticking down, an Eastern injury time corner saw Yapp come up to join the attack and again, the Suwon defence held strong.
Suwon will be delighted to record their first win in what is an incredibly competitive group and with Evergrande unable to build upon their comprehensive victory against Eastern in their first game; ACL group G is proving to be very tight. Eastern are currently at the bottom of Group G though this was another hard fought home display and Evergrande will face a totally different scenario against Eastern when they come to Hong Kong at the end of April.
Photos by Dennis Lo, JRP Borthwick, Christopher KL Lau