SINGAPORE: Both Singapore Premier League clubs, Lion City Sailors and Hougang United Football Club, saw their journey in the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup, respectively, ending in defeats.
The Sailors were handed a 2-0 loss by Hong Kong club Kitchee Sports Club, while the Cheetahs, Hougang’s nickname, suffered a 4–0 defeat to Hai Phong from Vietnam.
Hougang endured a difficult AFC Cup campaign, managing only one win, a 2-1 triumph over Vietnamese club Hai Phong at Jalan Besar Stadium in October. However, they could not find their rhythm on the field again and slumped to defeats in their remaining matches.
With just one win and five defeats, the Cheetahs ended their AFC Cup journey at the bottom of Group H with three points.
Hai Phong is in second position, tied on 10 points with third-placed PSM Makassar.
Group winners Sabah are on 12 points and advanced to the ASEAN Zone semi-finals to face Macarthur FC. The other semi-finals will see another Australian side, the Central Coast Mariners, taking on Phnom Penh Crown of Cambodia.
The Sailors could not replicate their 2-1 win against Kitchee when they met on matchday two at the Hong Kong Stadium in October.
Although both teams have been eliminated from the competition and are out of contention for qualification for the Round of 16, Kitchee were determined to clinch their first win of the campaign in Group F as they went on an offensive display from the start at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Dec 13.
“We should never be finding reasons why we lost a game, that will take credit away from the opponents. We were nervous at the start and that affected us. We controlled the match at the start of the second half but when that second goal went in, we knew it would be tough,” said Sailors head coach Aleksandar Rankovic after the defeat.
Kitchee wasted no time testing Sailors’ goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizan as early as the fourth minute. Fernando Perdreira received the ball from a right-flank cross and fired a first-time volley towards goal, but Zharfan did well to parry the ball to safety.
In the tenth minute, the Sailors’ defense was caught napping, and Kitchee’s Tan Chun Lok was able to take a shot from inside the danger zone, and Zharfan once again provided a safe pair of hands for the hosts.
But the deadlock was broken when Sailors’ Christopher van Huizen unfortunately connected a header to the top corner from Kitchee’s Fernando cross into his own net in the 11th minute.
The visitors doubled their lead in the second half through Fernando in the 74th minute.
The Brazilian-born Hong Kong international player was given plenty of space to roam near the Sailors’ penalty box, and he slotted the ball to the bottom corner to make it 2-0 for Kitchee.
With the results, Sailors ended their AFC Champions League Group F campaign in third place on six points. Their two wins came against Kitchee (2-1) and Jeonbuk Motors (2-0).
Bangkok United are top of the group with 13 points, and Jeonbuk is in second position with 12 points. The group winners and the three best second-placed teams from the East and West regions will advance to the Round of 16.