(Brief highlights of Matchday Five’s AFC Champions League Group G fixture featuring South Korea’s Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and Japan’s Nagoya Grampus)
Nagoya Grampus failed to make the most of several late opportunities to secure victory both in this match and in Group G, but they were fortunate to come away from the Tancheon Sports Complex with a draw in a game the K-League side had dominated from the outset. Grampus now face a decider at the Mizuho Athletic Stadium on 15 May, where they must avoid defeat to Australia’s Central Coast Mariners to progress to the Round of 16.
Manager Dragan Stojković made two changes to the team which slipped to a home defeat by Urawa Red Diamonds at the weekend, and his selection almost cost him dear within the opening thirty seconds, as Shohei Abe, a replacement for Takahiro Masukawa, misjudged the flight of a ball into the penalty area. The cross cleared the left-back and was collected by Yoon Bit-Garam lurking at the back post. The impressive midfielder drove the ball into the ground, forcing Seigo Narazaki into making an excellent early stop to clear for a corner.
Four minutes after Yoshizumi Ogawa had slammed a free-kick into a seven-man Chunma wall from 25 yards, with one of the few sights of goal Grampus had in the first half, and looking uncharacteristically jittery, the home side took the lead with their own set piece. Twenty yards from goal and slightly to the right of the penalty area’s arc, Han Sang-Woon guided an expertly executed left-footed shot over the wall and into the top right corner.
Grampus’s ability to build moves from the defence was frequently stifled by Chunma’s energetic, hard-working midfield and forward lines, a fluid shape changing between 4-3-3 and 4-5-1, with the attacking triumvarate of Lee Chang-Hoon, Hong Chul and Han pressing high up the pitch to prevent Tulio Tanaka and Danilson from retaining possession, Chul and Han then dropping deeper into midfield if their original shape had been circumvented. It was a tactic which worked for all but the last 15 minutes of the match when a number of Chunma players began to look fatigued, and most particularly in the opening period with Jung San waiting until stoppage time before he was required to make a save. Mu Kanazaki wasted Grampus’s only chance from open play, beating the offside trap with a perfectly timed run to control Kensuke Nagai’s cleverly lobbed pass, but ignoring the possibility of closing in on goal he instead volleyed wildly over the bar.
The second half followed a very similar pattern, and Chunma nearly extended their advantage on fifty minutes, Kim Sung-Hwan striking a rising shot which left Narazaki beaten but skimmed the crossbar on the way out for a goal kick. The half-time introduction of Keiji Tamada for Abe nearly paid off with quarter of an hour played, a mazy run from the forward finding Kanazaki in space, but the 23 year-old attacking midfielder, who was unable to reproduce his good form in the J.League in this match, could not adjust his feet to shoot and the ball was blocked out for a corner. The resulting set piece, sent deep to Tulio, allowed the centre-back to control, but a deflection took all the pace of his attempted volley and spun into the midriff of Jung San.
The equaliser when it arrived was as unexpected as it was welcome, and completely silenced a hitherto vocal crowd. Jungo Fujimoto advanced with the ball to the edge of the penalty, and passed into the path of an overlapping Yoshimizu Ogawa. His powerful first-time cross along the six yard box was heading in the direction of a waiting Nagai, but struck the chest of defender Park Jin-Po and flew beyond San.
The equaliser stirred Grampus, and they began to exert pressure on a tiring Chunma outfit, whose introduction of star forward Everton Santos was of no consequence, while Tulio began to take more advanced positions in search of the killer goal. While Grampus would have to wait until stoppage time for an opening, three would follow in quick succession, each of which could easily have been finished had Daniel once and Kensuke Nagai twice shown greater compusure. Daniel was the first to throw away a golden opportunity, a corner dropping to the defender eight yards from goal, but he blasted over the crossbar, Stojković’s frustration palpable on the sidelines as he pounded the turf with his fists.
Moments later, Nagai’s superb run saw him speed past Kim Seong-Jun, but driving into the penalty area his clipped effort evaded Jung San but also the right upright. With time dying out, Nagai then squandered perhaps the best chance of all, latching on to Fujimoto’s cross but heading straight at San when unmarked from six yards and with most of the goal gaping.
Grampus’s hopes of winning the Group were all but extinguished with the result. Seongnam travel to bottom of the table Tianjin Teda on Matchday Six and should be expected to win, the Tianjin Tigers unable to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament following their heavy defeat to Central Coast Mariners today.
|Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma||Nagoya Grampus|
|Han Sang-Woon||12||Park Jin-Po (OG.)||72|
|Lee Chang-Hoon||18||Yuki Maki||85|
|1||Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma||5||1||4||0||10||5||+5||7|
|3||Central Coast Mariners||5||1||3||1||7||8||-1||6|