JEONJU, SOUTH KOREA – Three goals in 10 second-half minutes condemned Emperor’s Cup holders Yokohama F. Marinos to a 3-0 defeat away to South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors in their Group G opener in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday night.
A superb double from Lee Seung-gi and a highly contentious penalty converted by Leonardo put Yokohama’s lights out, but it was not all bad news for Japanese clubs as Kawasaki Frontale edged out China’s Guizhou Renhe 1-0 in Group H thanks to Renato’s first-half free kick.
At Jeonju World Cup Stadium, neither team was able to create any meaningful chances in a tightly fought opening period, but Marinos came under pressure late on, repelling a wave of attacks as Jeonbuk pressed for an opener.
Marinos went close to breaking the deadlock 10 minutes into the second period when Sho Ito brought a fantastic save out of Choi Eun-sung, the former South Korea goalkeeper tipping Ito’s shot onto the post following a cross from Takumi Shimohira.
But Jeonbuk took the lead on 61 minutes, Lee showing clever skill to wrong foot Yuzo Kurihara and steer the ball past Yokohama ‘keeper Tetsuya Enomoto.
The South Korea international then completed his brace eight with another super finish, taking a pass from substitute Leonardo on his chest and smashing in a half volley.
Leonardo put the game out of reach with the third, sending Enomoto the wrong way from the spot after he appeared to have been taken down by the goalkeeper. Television replays, however, showed no contact had been made but Enomoto’s howls of protest fell on deaf ears.
“Even one point would have been good to take home with us. It’s disappointing,” said Yokohama manager Yasuhiro Higuchi. “This has made us realize anew how difficult the ACL is.”
“We have got last year’s champions (Guangzhou Evergrande) up next at home and we want to focus on taking three points off them.”
Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee admitted he did not think his team would beat Yokohama by such a comfortable margin.
“We kept on pressing from the front and it was significant that we did not let Yokohama play to their strengths,” he said. “I never thought we would get such a big win.”
Thirty-two teams are divided into eight groups in the first round of the ACL with the top two from each group advancing to the knockout phase.