Slender lead for Buriram in ACL last-16 tie

Buriram United have claimed a slim lead in their AFC Champions League Round of 16 clash with Bunyodkor after recording a 2-1 first-leg win on Tuesday.

Anawin Jujeen, Adisak Kraisorn, Buriram United
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

The Thunder Castle took the lead after 17 minutes when Anawin Jujeen scored with a deft header, but the visitors equalised on the stroke of halftime after Igor Taran sent a lovely volley into the back of the net.

But with 14 minutes remaining, substitute Ekkachai Sumrei popped up to score the winner with a terrific looping header to hand his side the slimmest of advantages ahead of next week's return leg in Tashkent.

Having made history by becoming the first Thai side in ten years to make the knockout round of Asia's premier club competition, Buriram were looking to move one step closer to the last eight with victory on Tuesday night.

They certainly started the brighter of the two teams and Murod Zukhurov was called into action for the first time in the 8th minute when he unconvincingly kept out a freekick from Theerathon Bunmathan, which had evaded a sea of players but looked set to fly straight into the back of the net.

Four minutes later, the Bunyodkor goalkeeper produced a good save to keep out a rasping left-footed drive by Adisak Kraisorn, but there was little he could do to deny the hosts from taking the lead in the 17th minute.

Picking up possession down the left, Jirawat floated a searching long pass into the box to pick up the late run of Anawin, who got the slightest of touches on the ball but managed to send a glancing header past Zukhurov's despairing dive.

It could easily have been 2-0 six minutes later when Adisak broke free down the left after a great run and pass by Theerathon Bunmathan, before firing in a shot that was parried back into the danger zone by Zukhurov. Anawin was quickest to the rebound and poked it back into the path of Kai Hirano, but from 12 yards out, the Japanese could only wastefully blaze over.

Unhappy with what he was seeing from his side in the opening exchanges, Bunyodkor coach Mirdjalal Kasimov decided to make an attacking switch by bringing on Igor Taran for the ineffective Fozil Musaev.

And right on the stroke of halftime, the substitution paid dividends when the 29-year-old was perfectly positioned inside the box to meet Lutfulla Turaev's floated pass with an emphatic first-time volley that flew straight into the top corner.

Buoyed at pulling level, Bunyodkor came out for the second half with plenty of energy and desire and began to dominate proceedings.

Right on the hour mark, they were unlucky not to take the lead when Jasur Hasanov made his way down the left and played an excellent cross to the feet of Kamoliddin Murzoev, only for him to send a blistering shot back off the bar.

Looking to inject more pace and creativity in his own attack, Buriram coach Scott Cooper decided to bring on both Suriya Domtaisong and Ekkachai Sumrei, who had scored in their last Champions League outing - the 2-2 draw against FC Seoul that took them through to the knockout round.

And in the 76th minute, Ekkachai came to the fore again as he met a pinpoint freekick by Jirawat with a brilliant flicked header that looped over a Murod Zukhurov before dipping just into the top corner.

Having reclaimed the lead, Buriram then decided to keep things tight and play out the remainder of the game, but two minutes from time, there was one final bit of drama when Taran went down inside the area under a strong challenge and appealed for a penalty.

However, referee Ben Williams, who had booked Taran earlier for diving, instead blew for an offside call against him, allowing the Thunder Castle to hold on for a vital triumph.

Buriram United: Sivaruck Tedsungnoen, Tanasak Srisai, Osmar Barba, Pratum Chuthong, Suree Sukha, Surat Sukha (Ekkachai Sumrei 70'), Jirawat Makarom, Anawin Jujeen, Adisak Kraisorn (Dennis Buschening 90'), Kai Hirano (Suriya Domtaisong 60').

Bunyodkor: Murod Zukhurov, Anvar Gafurov, Artyom Filiposyan, Hayrulla Karimov, Oleg Zoteev, Jovlon Ibrokhimov, Marko Blazic (Alibobo Rakhmatullaev 79'), Lutfulla Turaev, Fozil Musaev (Igor Taran 37'), Jasur Hasanov, Kamoliddin Murzoev (Oleksandr Pyschur 72').

Image courtesy of Buriram United FC

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