Muangthong United are on the verge of a last-16 exit from the AFC Champions League following a disappointing 3-1 home defeat in Tuesday’s first leg to Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale.
The result was a surprise given Muangthong’s previous good form in the tournament, but it will be tough for the Thai side to progress with a two-goal deficit.
FOX Sports Asia looks at five talking points from Tuesday night’s match.
Fatigue and form a factor?
One thing that was noticeable in Nonthaburi on Tuesday night was that many of Muangthong’s players looked tired, which is understandable given their hectic schedule over the last few months. Tristan Do for one, was a shadow of the player we usually see tearing up and down the flank.
Let’s not forget that Kirin players make up a large portion of the Thai national team, and they have endured a busy few months. First with the Suzuki Cup, then the World Cup qualifiers and now the Thai league and the AFC Champions League. So it would be no surprise of some of the players were beginning to feel it.
Coming into the game on a run of five defeats also did not help as Muangthong looked devoid of confidence – a complete contrast to the situation just a few weeks ago.
Nakamura at hand?
Even though Kawasaki fully deserved the win, questions remain over the equaliser as Kendo Nakamura appeared to use his hand in the build up. TV replays were inconclusive, but Nakamura’s body shape seemed to suggest he may have used his arm to help control the ball before slotting past Kawin Thamsatchanan.
The goal was key as it was the turning point, and led to Kawasaki grabbing a second just three minutes later.
Kobayashi the key
With Muangthong fortunate to be holding a slim lead at the break, the Japanese side were completely transformed following the appearance of striker Yu Kobayashi as a half-time substitute.
The Japan international made the difference as Kawasaki’s front-line immediately began to look more fluent. Kobayashi then popped up with the crucial second goal, a wonderful volleyed finish, before setting up the killer third goal with a cool low cross to the far post.
It was a masterclass of forward play that the Muangthong defence had no answer to.
Teerasil shows his class – again
If there were any doubts about the rangy striker’s ability to cut it at the top level then this match should have finally laid them to rest. As in the final group match against Kashima Antlers, Teerasil scored a goal of the highest quality. Receiving a pass outside the box following Chanathip’s dummy, he controlled the ball, turned and shot in one motion, arrowing a laser-accurate strike into the bottom corner that gave the Kawasaki keeper Jung Sungryong no chance.
In the second half he was then denied what would have been another wonder strike by a last ditch save after running half the length of the pitch. Once again, he put in a busy performance, linking play well with some nice touches and passing against a strong Kawasaki defence.
That Teerasil has never proven himself overseas should not take away from the fact that he is a world-class striker.
Strength in depth
One of the biggest factors on the night and one that made all the difference was the strength in depth of the visitors squad. When they needed a spark, Kawasaki coach Oniki Toru was able to bring on the likes of Kobayashi and Ryota Oshima, and these players made a big difference.
Denied the services of important players like Xisco and Adisak Kraisorn, Muangthong’s best players were all out on the field, which meant that coach Sripan Totchtawan just didn’t have the same kind of quality back up to call on when he needed to switch things around.