OSAKA – Kenyu Sugimoto’s 88th-minute equalizer salvaged a 2-2 Asian Champions League draw for Cerezo Osaka against Thailand’s Buriram United on Wednesday.
Tightly marked for most of the night, Sugimoto shook his marker on a cross from the right, off the boot of captain Hotaru Yamaguchi, to score at Osaka Nagai Stadium and earn Cerezo a point.
Despite a free-flowing attacking game from both sides, Buriram’s goals both came on set pieces, Rattanakorn Maikami’s arcing 11th-minute corner falling in for the game’s first score.
After Yang Dong-hyun equalized for the hosts in the 65th minute, Buriram’s Brazilian forward Diogo used his head on a 71st-minute corner from Rattanakorn to restore the visitors’ lead.
Cerezo, now third in Group G with five points from four matches, has two games left to play.
“This is a bitter result to swallow because we were going for three points,” Sugimoto said. “I had chances to score and I failed and that is why we had to settle for a point.
“Now there’s nothing left for us to do but win our final two group games.”
Cerezo entered the game without a goal in consecutive Asian Champions League matches for the first time ever and were determined to waste no opportunities, as Kota Mizunuma showed when he blasted a long-range shot just over the bar in the second minute.
But the visitors had the first word through Rattanakorn. His high corner eluded teammates and defenders alike in front of the goal and dropped in for the ice breaker.
The Thai side, which defeated Cerezo 2-0 at home on March 6, showed finesse in attack and tenacity in defense, and survived several assaults on its goal, until Yang equalized. With a defender clinging to him, the South Korean forward headed in a spectacular long cross from Yusuke Maruhashi.
Yang’s goal seemed to stun the visitors, who had to weather five minutes of sustained pressure before Rattanakorn unleashed another magical corner in the 71st minute.
At the near post, Brazilian forward Edgar made the first attempt, but only headed the ball to the far post, where his compatriot Diogo headed it in.
Befitting the free-flowing attacking both sides attempted, Diogo hit the post from 45 meters out shortly after with a speculative chip that caught Cerezo keeper Kim Jin-jyeon napping.
China’s Guangzhou Evergrande leads the group after a 2-0 victory at South Korea’s Jeju United, which is last with three points. Buriram United, with five points, leads Cerezo on goal difference.