Tokyo Verdy had an Asian Champions League debut to forget on Wednesday, losing 2-0 to K. League champion Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i.
Ulsan broke the deadlock in the Group F match at National Stadium on 57 minutes with a goal from ex-Kashiwa Reysol forward Choi Sung Kuk. Masayuki Yanagisawa’s woeful attempt at a chested back pass fell short and the 23-year-old Choi stole in and clipped the ball over advancing ‘keeper Hiroki Mizuhara.
Brazilian striker Machado, top scorer in the K. League last season, put the game beyond J2’s Verdy on 71 minutes when he collected the ball just inside the area and crashed a wonderful shot into the roof of the net.
The fight for top spot in Group F and qualification to the quarterfinals is limited to Verdy and Ulsan after the other clubs from their group — Tobacco Monopoly of Thailand and Arema Malang of Indonesia — were thrown out after failing to file vital registration documents in time. The return leg between Verdy and Ulsan is on May 3.
On a miserable day all-around for Japan’s ACL representatives, J. League champion Gamba Osaka lost its opening Group E match 3-2 against South Korea’s Chonbuk Hyundai Motors in Jeonju.
Animated Verdy boss Ruy Ramos, who took the reins at his old club in January, grew frustrated at his side’s inability to break down a Ulsan defense marshaled superbly by captain and South Korean international You Kyoung Youl.
Ramos was left to rue Verdy’s missed chances in the first half as Ulsan took control in the second, with bottle blonde forward Lee Chun Soo, last season’s K. League MVP, giving a performance full of intelligent running and passing.
“Obviously I’m disappointed,” Verdy coach Ramos said. “We did really well in the first half, but our opponents took their chances and we didn’t.
“But it’s not over yet. We lost 2-0 tonight, but there’s no reason why we can’t go there and win two or three nil.”
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