Jeonbuk hold off Tianjin to stay top and set up Buriram clash

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors sealed a top-spot finish in AFC Champions League Group E on Wednesday after claiming a 3-0 win over Kitchee.

Following a goalless first half at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium, the breakthrough finally arrived in the 72nd minute when Kim Shin-wook nodded Ricardo Lopes’ lofted pass into the path of Lee Seung-gi, who made no mistake in finishing past Wang Zhenpeng.

Kim then doubled their lead seven minutes later when he got a deft header onto Lim Sun-young’s left-footed curler to guide the ball into the back of the net.

And, three minutes before fulltime, Kim returned the favour when his deft flick released Lim, who curled a fine effort into the far corner to seal the win for the hosts.

Meanwhile,  Tianjin Quanjian marched on into the Round of 16 with a 3-2 triumph over Kashiwa Reysol at the Tianjin Olymic Center Stadium, and will take on Chinese Super League rivals Guangzhou Evergrande next.

Tianjin, who entered the clash needing a win if they were to have any chance of pipping Jeonbuk to top spot, took the lead in the 24th minute when Zhao Xuri pounced on a loose ball inside the area and sent a left-footed volley past Haruhiko Takimoto.

Right on the half-hour mark, Zhao doubled his tally when he reacted brilliantly to lash home on the rebound after his initial effort from an Alexandre Pato cross was saved by Takimoto.

The visitors reduced the deficit six minutes before the break; Kei Koizumi pouncing after Ramon Lopes’ shot had come back off the foot of the post to send the follow-up into the unguarded goal.

Tianjin effectively killed off the contest in the 64th minute as Yang Xu found the bottom corner with a terrific header, after being picked out by Chu Jinzhao’s excellent right-wing delivery.

Still, Kashiwa deserve plenty of credit for refusing to give in and grabbed another consolation five minutes later, when Yusuke Segawa charged into the box and stamped a shot home from inside the six-yard box following a perfectly-cushioned header by Tomoki Imai.