Lion City Sailors rue lapses after 2-1 home loss to Bangkok United in Asian Champions League opener
The Lion City Sailors were unable to capitalise on their home-ground advantage in the Asian Champions League, as they squandered a one-goal lead in the 2-1 defeat by Bangkok United at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.
The Sailors fielded five of their foreign players from the start, including new signing Rui Pires and star winger Maxime Lestienne, but apart from goalscorer Diego Lopes, they were unable to rise to the occasion in front of the crowd of 2,927, who included President Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
They were also not helped by the absences of Kodai Tanaka, Bailey Wright and Pedro Henrique, who were recovering from injuries, in their first home game in the competition against the Thai League 1 leaders.
Sailors coach Aleksandar Rankovic chose to focus on the positives though, saying after the Group F clash: “Looking at the whole game, I think we didn’t really deserve to lose, especially after the first goal, we really stood our ground and didn’t allow Bangkok to create any chances.
“Of course, we have to learn in this competition that every mistake can be crucial.”
They started the match with a 5-4-1 formation, clearly distinct from the 4-3-3 system they usually deploy in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).
Rankovic explained that he had been impressed by how the Sailors played in their new formation when he tried it out in the 5-1 friendly loss against Tottenham Hotspur on July 26.
He added: “In this competition, we’re going to need an extra man behind. Of course, the way we build up was like in the SPL, so that was something I was thinking about – how I’m going to make it very simple for them, especially on the ball and trying to be compact when we lose the ball.”
Bangkok dominated possession but failed to create clear-cut chances, and were punished when the Sailors took the lead against the run of play in the 25th minute through Lopes.
Christopher van Huizen’s cross from the left was headed away as far as the 29-year-old, who struck a sweet volley off the ground and past Bangkok’s goalkeeper Patiwat Khammai.
Bangkok equalised six minutes into the second half, when captain Everton Saturnino sent a towering header past Sailors custodian Zharfan Rohaizad from a Rungrat Phumichantuk corner.
The away side took the lead for good in the 62nd minute, when Thitiphan Puangjan’s long-range effort flew past a rooted Zharfan into the back of the net after he found himself with acres of space to shoot.
Manuel Lopez thought he had equalised for the Sailors nine minutes later, but his header was disallowed for offside.
In the closing stages, Rankovic threw on wingers Haiqal Pashia and Shawal Anuar but they struggled to make an impact as the Sailors fell short at the end.
Rankovic revealed that they went for broke after falling behind, saying: “Everybody saw that we can be really competitive today, and that was one of my biggest goals. We showed what we’re made of, but the boys are very disappointed about the loss.”
Bangkok coach Totchtawan Sripan said of his side’s win: “In the first half, we tried to adjust to the pitch, and at half-time we made some tactical changes in terms of getting used to the artificial pitch. We’re happy to go back home with three points.”
The Sailors will head to Hong Kong to face Kitchee, who lost 2-1 to South Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, on Oct 4.