For the second time in three days Junsoo struck in the 92nd minute to rescue a vital point in the AFC Champions League game against Guangzhou Evergrande. It was no more than Buriram deserved as a battling second-half performance rocked the Chinese who were in total control in the opening half.
There is no doubt about who is the better side but Buriram had the world’s 16th richest club looking very ragged at times as they went at their illustrious opponents in a pulsating second period.
Buriram still had the ever-reliable Siwarak to thank for keeping them in the game with two outstanding saves, the one in the first-half was stunning when he turned a fierce strike by the dangerous Goulart onto the crossbar.
You have to feel sorry for Siwarak, as he has only played in the national side three times, because his form over the last four years has been nigh-on faultless.
There was no Tunez as he is still receiving treatment for an ankle injury but Edgar returned in place of Supachok who dropped to the bench.
As in the game in China, Evergrande went straight on the offensive and Brazilian Alan soon had the Buriram defence in trouble on two occasions but fortunately the ball was scrambled clear.
The Chinese looked comfortable on the ball and moved it around quickly as they probed for openings. On the other hand, Buriram were reduced to humping long balls forward for Edgar, a tactic they employed throughout the opening half and the visitors’ defence had little trouble dealing with them.
The Evergrande wing-backs were pushing high up the field which meant that Narubadin and Korrakot were unable to get forward and for much of the time the Buriram midfield were chasing shadows.
The breakthrough came in the 20th minute and there was more than a slice of good fortune about it. As against Chonburi, Jakkaphan gave the ball away deep in his own half but this time there was to be no reprieve.
Two quick passes saw Zheng L with a clear sight of goal twenty yards out. The midfielder’s shot was not a particularly good one but it took a wicked deflection off the last Buriram defender to leave Siwarak hopelessly stranded.
Lucky, yes. But it had been coming. Buriram failed to register a single attempt on goal as they continued to launch the ball forward in Edgar’s direction at every opportunity. It wasn’t pretty to watch, but more importantly, totally ineffective.
It was almost game over in the 40th minute but for the intervention of Siwarak. Goulart, who was a threat all night, was allowed to advance into the area before firing in a fierce shot which looked a certain goal. However, Siwarak flung himself to his left and turned the ball onto the underside of the crossbar . The stopper was then quickly on his feet to collect the loose ball.
The Buriram midfield was being completely overrun. Jakkaphan, Korrakot and Suchao in particular, had no answer to the pace of the Chinese as they poured forward at will. It looked like it was going to be a long second forty-five minutes.
Buriram finally registered a shot on target in the 48th minute when Diogo collected the ball out on the left before cutting inside to hit a firm shot which was straight at the keeper. The Brazilian worked tirelessly all night and Evergrande were obviously aware of the threat that he could pose, judging by the uncompromising treatment they were handing out to the striker.
However, Diogo is not a superman and can’t be out wide providing the bullets and in the centre firing them. This is where the Buriram midfield need to look at themselves and get wide more often and then provide more quality balls into the penalty area. (Narubadin excepted, he had another fine match.)
Buriram brought on Supachok for the tiring Suchao in the 57th minute and ten minutes later the home side were inches away from an equalizer. Diogo had been fouled once again out on the left and Ratthanakorn sent over a curling free-kick with pace, which Diogo headed just wide with the keeper beaten.
Buriram made a second substitution in the 75th minute, bringing on Sasalak for Korrakot and immediately the attacks became quicker and more purposeful. Just as it looked like Buriram were in the ascendancy, Evergrande mounted a lightning attack with some stunning one-touch football which sliced open the home defence.
It left Goulart with another clear shooting chance but Siwarak thwarted him again by diving low to his left to turn the ball round the post. Buriram made their final substitution in the 83rd minute when Anon replaced the once again disappointing Jakkaphan.
A minute later it was almost all-square when Diogo and Sasalak combined well down the left before the latter hit a fierce shot from the angle of the area which the keeper got fingertips to and the ball flew over the bar.
Buriram took heart from that and continued to press forward but they were hit on the break in the 89th minute when Goulart easily beat Praweenwat to run clear. He advanced and dummied Siwarak to leave himself with an open goal but Narubadin got back brilliantly to clear the ball from right off the goal line.
Superb defending as he didn’t give it up as a lost cause and was justly rewarded.
The game moved into stoppage time and unbelievably Buriram conjured up an equalizer out of nothing. Junsoo had been pushed up into the attack several minutes earlier and it was he once again who grabbed the headlines.
For the final time, Buriram launched the ball forward towards Edgar and the big striker got a good head on the ball which found Diogo on the edge of the area. For once, the Brazilian’s control was not good and the ball bounced off a defender straight to Junsoo. The Korean took a touch before rifling a low, right-foot shot into the corner of the net to spark wild celebrations both on and off the field.
As stated before, Buriram were certainly second-best but deserved something out of the game for the way they came back after being completely outplayed. It was disheartening to see them appear to think from the outset that they couldn’t compete with the Chinese by playing football.
When you get the opportunity to play against the best, you should use it. It’s the only way players can develop. Buriram proved in the second-half that Evergrande could be rattled and they should have played like that from the start.
Qualification for the knock-out stages is probably now in Buriram’s own hands.
They HAVE to win their final game against Jeju in Korea. If Evergrande beat Cerezo , then Buriram go through on 9 points. If Cerezo get a draw in China, then Buriram go through on the head-to-head rule having beaten and drawn with Cerezo. (That late goal in Japan could come back to haunt us!)
Buriram return to League action on Saturday, April 7 at Suphanburi, 7pm.