Daegu, Jeonnam top groups after first Champions League games
K League rivals Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were both held to draws in their first games of the 2022 AFC Champions League, while K League 2 club Jeonnam Dragons took an early three points and Daegu FC started off the tournament with a resounding 7-0 win.
Daegu, Jeonnam and Ulsan all played their first games of the 2022 tournament on Friday. Daegu, in Group F, and Jeonnam, in Group G, are both playing all of their group stage games in Thailand, while Ulsan and Group I play in Malaysia. Jeonbuk are competing in Group H in Vietnam, with their games starting on Saturday.
Ulsan had a tough first game of the tournament against Kawasaki Frontale at Larkin Stadium in Johor, Malaysia, on Friday, settling for a a 1-1 draw with the Japanese champions despite holding the lead for the majority of the game.
Ulsan's Léo Souza opened the scoring for the 2020 Champions League champions, scoring in the 21st minute. The Korean club held on to that lead for most of the rest of the game, only slipping behind four minutes into injury time at the end of the second half, when Shintaro Kurumaya tied the score for Kawasaki.
Jeonnam had more success in their first Champions League game since 2008, beating Filipino club United City 1-0 at Pathum Thani Stadium in Pathum Thani, Thailand.
Despite the win, Friday's game was a surprisingly low-scoring affair for Jeonnam, who's sole goal came from Kosovan import Leonard Pllana in the 87th minute. United City conceded a total of 11 goals across both legs of their group stage games with Daegu FC in last year's tournament.
Daegu are off to a high-scoring start this year as well, beating China's Shandong Taishan 7-0 at Buriram City Stadium in Buriram, Thailand on Friday.
Lee Keun-ho opened the scoring for the Korean side in the 15th minute, with Zeca scoring back-to-back goals in the 19th and 26th minutes to put Daegu up 3-0 going into half time. Hong Chul added goal No. 4 in the 48th minute, with Bruno Lamas and Jung Chi-in adding two in quick succession in the 66th and 69th minutes. Zeca returned to complete his hat trick in the 77th minute to round off the score at 7-0.
Jeonbuk's first game of the tournament was a lot less explosive, drawing 0-0 with Australian champions Sydney FC at Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City in an incredibly evenly-matched game that failed to offer any real challenge to either goalkeeper.
Following that first round of fixtures, Daegu and Jeonnam both lead their respective groups, while Jeonbuk sits in second place in Group H and Ulsan in third in Group I. The top team from each group advances along with the three best second-place teams from each region.
The Champions League will continue Monday as Jeonnam take on Thai side BG Pathum United, Daegu face Singapore's Lion City Sailors and Ulsan play Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim. Jeonbuk will play their second game against Yokohama FM on Tuesday.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]