Brazilian forward Bill scored twice as Thai League 1 champion Chiangrai United edge South Korea's FC Seoul 2-1 Friday to record their first-ever victory in the AFC Champions League.
The Thai outfit had suffered a morale-sapping 5-0 defeat to Seoul only three days back, but were an altogether different unit in the second round of their double-header with 36-year-old Bill, who was badly missed by Chiangrai on Tuesday, producing a clinical display up front at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
Bill opened the scoring in the 40th minute tapping in a cross from Ekanit Panya. The K League 1 side were awarded a penalty for Shinnaphat Leeaoh's foul on Park Chu-Young, but Chiangrai custodian Apirak Worawong produced a save to deny Park from the spot.
Park atoned for the error just before the hour mark heading home from a corner kick to restore the parity. But the historic winner for the Beetles arrived one minute from time when Siwakorn Tiatrakul's cross was turned in by Bill at the far post to earn the Thai champions their first points in ACL.
Though their chances of making the knockout phase of the Champions League in their maiden appearance seem far-fetched after defeats in their first three matches, Friday's triumph will be one that will be remembered for a long time by the Chiangrai faithfuls.
Beijing look to fly the Chinese flag again in Champions League
Last week marked five years since a Chinese club emerged winners of Asia's premier club football competition. In 2015, Elkeson had scored the only goal of a two-legged final against UAE's Al Ahli Club to hand the big-spending Guangzhou their second Asian title in three years.
Since then, though, no Chinese Super League club have made it to the final of the Champions League with teams from Japan representing East Asia in three of the last four seasons. But early signs since the restart of the East Zone is that the Chinese clubs, none more so than Beijing Guoan FC, mean business this time around.
Beijing have been scintillating to watch in Qatar over the last week or so and recorded their fourth straight win in the group stages on Friday by defeating A-League outfit Melbourne Victory 2-0, thanks to first half goals from Jonathan Viera and Zhang Yuning.
In doing so, they also made it to the knockout stages of the competition for the first time since 2015. Their feat is all the more impressive considering the fact that three of those wins have come in the span of just seven days with Bruno Genesio's men defeating FC Seoul 2-1 on November 21 before back-to-back wins over Melbourne.
On Friday, Brazil international Renato Augusto was once again the live-wire for Beijing finding Wang Gang who laid the ball off for Viera to net the opener with a cheeky finish just nine minutes in. Zhang doubled the lead in the 35th minute as Viera provided the assist this time around.
Beijing have made it to the last 16 with two games to spare as they took their tally to 12 points from four matches in Group E while FC Seoul are second with six points after their defeat to Chiangrai. Melbourne and the Thai champions both have three points apiece.
Knockout race heats up in Group F after Ulsan, Tokyo wins
The three-way battle for securing the knockout spots from Group F is edging towards a thrilling conclusion after wins for Ulsan Hyundai and FC Tokyo on Friday.
While group leaders Ulsan defeated Perth Glory 2-0, thanks to goals from Kim In-sung and Junior Negrao in the last three minutes of the game, FC Tokyo leapfrogged Shanghai Shenhua to second place after defeating the Chinese opposition 2-1 at the Education City Stadium.
Ulsan have 10 points from four matches while Tokyo and Shanghai have seven and six points respectively. Ulsan and Tokyo face each other in a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash on Monday while the CSL side face the already-eliminated Perth in the other match as they look to close the gap on the J1 League side.