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AFC Cup: Sharks bite with Brazilian flavor

AFC Cup

image: thai-fussball.com

With Brazilian flavor Chonburi FC has bitten back and after two unsuccessful attempts finally reached the semi final of the AFC Cup. It marks not only the biggest success of the club on continental stage since its founding, it was historic for Thai football at the same time.

Ahead of the return match against the Syrian side of Al-Shorta all odds were against the Sharks. The 1-2 loss at home from the first leg and the almost cut in stone rule that there is nothing to win for a Thai side if playing a middle eastern club away. A penalty kick at the half hour mark for the home team don't seemed to make things better. But Ali Ghalioum who took the penalty tried to chip the ball into the net in a rather haughty whiteness, so that the ball  was an easy prey for Sinthaweechai. Of course a converted penalty kick would not have changed a thing here for Chonburi. Two goals had to go here, one way or the other. But now the psychological advantage was with the Thai side and they knew how transform it.

And indeed, a brace turned the tie and Chonburi went into half time with a two goal lead and a clean sheet. Pipob On Mon. (36'). and Tiago Cunha (37'). were the scorers during the first 45 minutes. From the corner of his eye the Brazilian striker somehow must have spotted the goalkeeper far off the line and chipped one in from a good 30 meters of the right wing. Nevertheless, shortly after the break Al Jafal could draw one back for his team and therefore brought the tie back on level after aggregate. As the score line remained for the rest of the second half, the encounter was sent in to extra time. Ali Ghalioum, who missed from the spot earlier, did it right, that time and made it 2-2 with just three minutes played. All or nothing for Chonburi. And yes they did as Cunha swung oneself up to the match winner and "man of the match" in the following minutes. Free kick Arthit  - who just came off the bench couple of minutes before - Cholratit Jantakam heads the ball back and Tiago Cunha (111'). completes. His third goal came sixty seconds before the end of injury time and with it provided the final scoreline of 4-2.

At the same time he marked something historical. Although Chonburi is only the second club from Thailand, after Muang Thong 2010, able to reaching the semi-final of the AFC Cup. But in more than 40 years of continental club competitions of the AFC, Chonburi FC is the first Thai representative able to score four goals in an away match in the middle-east - let alone not having to decide a tie after penalties like Muang Thong in 2010 versus Al-Rayyan. Not even the legendary Thai Farmers Bank accomplished such a feat. However, the statistic of the now defunct side gives hope for a possible "Finale Dahoam" (it was Bayern Munich's anthem during the 2011/12 Champions League season and their aim to play the finale at home). Since the AFC Cup final is decided in only one game and both Champions League Finals in 1994 and 1995 were all held on home soil for Thai Farmers Bank and on both occasions against opponents from the Middle East.

Also this year the prospect is not different if Chonburi should reach the final as the last remained representative from the "rest of Asia". Beside the half final opponent Arbil FC from Iraq - they defeated Kelantan FA from Malaysia - Al-Ettifaq from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait SC are still in the race. The first leg of the round of the last four already takes place on Tuesday and provides the boys of coach Heng with only little time to rest. Returning from Jordan this Thursday the team will travel Iraq this Saturday. The league match against Osotspa was shifted on account of that indefinitely.
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