AFC Champions League 2019: 5 talking points as Chiangrai United overcome Yangon to reach the playoff

Chiangrai Yangon AFC Champions League

Thai League’s Chiangrai United defeated Myanmar National League champions Yangon United 3-1 at the Singha Stadium in Chiangrai on Tuesday to progress to the next round of the AFC Champions League 2019 qualifiers.

They will now play J.League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the playoff of the continental championship on February 19.

But before that, let’s take a look at the five key talking points from the game.

1) The home side draws the first blood

Playing in front of a little over 3,000 fans at the United Stadium of Chiangrai a.k.a. the Singha Stadium, it was the Thai League club who landed the first punch when their Korea Republic star Lee Yong-rae who opened the scoring for them in the 12th minute with a powerful drive. Lee, who is now 32, might be reaching the twilight of his career, but the former Suwon Samsung Bluewings defensive midfielder’s influence on the Thai side is large and the Beetles’ fortunes in the continental showpiece will very much depend upon the Daejeon-born star.

2) But the visitors strike back!

Floodgates were expected to open once the hosts Chiangrai went ahead so early in the game, but it was Yangon United who found their way back into the game as  Pyae Phyo Zaw found the equaliser in spectacular fashion from a free kick from wide left. Yangon had found an answer to going down early in the knockout match and they proved to their Thai opposition that they won’t be mere pushovers in this contest.

3) Two goals in two minutes! 

Though Yangon scored the equaliser in the 36th minute, their celebrations were short-lived. Because in the 38th minute, the ball was put in the back of the net at the other end by Chiangrai’s Suriya Singmui to make it 2-1. Yangon who were boosted by their goal lost the steam in an instant and never looked like mounting another comeback for the rest of the game. And their fate was sealed in the 86th minute when Rosimar Amancio found the third of the night for the Chiangrai club.

4) Can the Beetles make up for last year’s disappointment?

Chiangrai might never have made it to the group stages of the AFC Champions League, but they came so far, yet so close last season when they were knocked out in cruel fashion in the play offs. They had defeated Indonesia’s Bali United in the second preliminary round last season before fighting neck and neck with Chinese and Asian football giants Shanghai SIPG before going down to the Chinese 1-0 in the playoff. Now, once again back in the play off, can they set last year’s disappointment aside and grab the opportunity that has presented this season?

5) But they cannot underestimate their opponents.

If Shanghai were a formidable opponent last season, this time the Thai side will face equally difficult opposition in the form of J.League runners-up Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the playoff round to be held on February 19. The team coached by Hiroshi Jofuku collected 57 points from 34 matches to finish only behind champions Kawasaki Frontale last season and feature the likes of Brazilian attacker Patric who scored for fun in the J.League last term. But if Chiangrai can once again summon the fighting spirit they displayed against the Chinese Super League giants last season, they could pose a huge challenge for the Hiroshima side and maybe book a historic group stage spot in the AFC Champions League 2019.