Jeju fall to Jiangsu in AFC Champions League opener at home
SEOUL-- South Korean club Jeju United lost to Chinese outfit Jiangsu Suning FC 1-0 in their opening match at the top Asian club football competition on Wednesday.
Jiangsu's Brazilian midfielder Ramires scored a late winner at a rain-soaked Jeju World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, and forced Jeju to pick up a loss in the Group H opener at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.
Jeju are now in third place in the group followed by Adelaide United of Australia, which suffered a 3-0 loss to Gamba Osaka of Japan earlier in the day.
Jiangsu, led by South Korean head coach Choi Yong-soo, first had a shot on target in the eighth minute with Colombian striker Roger Martinez's right footed shot. Jeju, making their only second appearance to the AFC Champions League (ACL), then answered with Kwon Soon-hyung's left footed effort in the 14th.
Jeju, which took third place at the K League Classic, almost broke the scoreless deadlock in the 38th when Lee Chang-min hit the left post with a header off Park Jin-po's cross. In the 48th, Jeju's Marcelo Toscano rang the crossbar with a right footed strike from the right side of the box.
The hosts kept knocking on the door with second-half substitute Ahn Hyun-beom's right footed strike in the 69th and Park's middle-range effort in the 78th, but both attempts found the net.
Jiangsu, the Chinese Super League runner-up, finally smiled in the 90th with Ramires' goal. Following a set piece situation, the former Chelsea man fired a right footed shot in the box and beat Jeju goalkeeper Kim Ho-jun.
Jeju were given four minutes of extra time, but failed to level the score.
"We played well, but lacked the finishing touch in decisive moments," Jeju head coach Jo Sung-hwan said. "We were also unlucky, but bad luck is not to blame."
Jeju will next travel to Suita City Football Stadium in Osaka, Japan, to face Gamba on March 1.
Elsewhere, another South Korean club, Suwon Samsung Bluewings, played to a 1-1 draw with Kawasaki Frontale.
Kawasaki, making their ACL return after a three-year hiatus, scored first at Todooroki Athletics Stadium after team captain Yu Kobayashi slotted in Kengo Nakamura's cross in the 11th.
Suwon, the reigning Korea Football Association Cup champions, leveled the score 12 minutes later, thanks to Shogo Taniguchi who failed to clear Yeom Ki-hun's cross and put the ball into his own net.
Suwon then pushed forward in the second half with powerful plays from Brazilian striker Johnathan and young midfielder Jang Ho-ik, but failed to beat Kawasaki's South Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong, who joined the Japanese outfit from Suwon last year.
"The season's first match is always difficult," said Suwon head coach Seo Jung-won. "We just have to be satisfied that we earned a single point on the road, but it's a problem that our players have yet to find their best form."
Both Suwon and Kawasaki are in Group G where they also have to face Guangzhou Evergrande of China and Eastern SC of Hong Kong.
Suwon will next host Guangzhou, the ACL champions in 2013 and 2015, at Suwon World Cup Stadium. Guangzhou demolished Eastern 7-0 in their opening match later Wednesday.
Jeju and Suwon are two of the four South Korean teams at the ACL this year.
FC Seoul, the reigning South Korean league champions, fell to Shanghai SIPG 1-0 in their Group F opening match at home, while Ulsan Hyundai lost to the Kashima Antlers of Japan 2-0 on the road in their first match in Group E on Tuesday.
Source: Yonhap News Agency