24.06.2021 19:40 h

Damjanovic closes in on Asian Champions League goal record

Dejan Damjanovic is one goal shy of becoming the all-time top scorer in the Asian Champions League after his late strike helped Hong Kong's Kitchee ease to a 2-0 win over Thailand's Port FC on Thursday.

The 39-year-old forward, who played for top Chinese and South Korean sides before signing up for Kitchee and delivering the Hong Kong Premier League title for them in May, struck in the 79th minute in their Group J match at the Buriram Stadium in Thailand.

The former Montenegrin international beat Port FC goalkeeper Worawut Srisupa with a low strike from the centre of the box off an assist from Brazilian Cleiton Velasques to draw level on 37 goals with South Korea's Lee Gong-gook.

Kitchee, already the first side from Hong Kong to win a group match in the AFC Champions League, had gone ahead through an instinctive shot by Roberto, who volleyed home after Heliop Goncalves' header from a corner had rebounded off the post in the 37th minute.

Alex Chu's side were however lucky throughout the match as Port FC dominated proceedings but failed to find the net.

The Thais could have gone 2-0 ahead in the first 10 minutes but John Baggio and Bordin Phala found their efforts thudding into the woodwork.

Phillip Roller and Elias Dollah also went close but Damjanovic's record-equalling effort ensured three points for the Hong Kong side.

Earlier, Japan's Cerezo Osaka dominated Chinese giants Guanghzou FC for a 2-0 victory in another Group J match at the Buriram Stadium

Guangzhou FC, formerly known as Guangzhou Evergrande who won the tournament in 2015, fielded a largely under-23 side as many of their top players who play for the Chinese national team couldn't make the squad due to quarantine issues following their participation in the second round qualifying for next year's World Cup.

Their Brazilian star Paulinho also left by mutual consent earlier this week after failing to return from his home country because of China's strict coronavirus entry requirements.

On Thursday, Cerezo scored both their goals from set pieces, the first coming in the 15th minute when Hiroaki Okuna powered a header from the centre of the box off a corner by Riki Harakawa.

Australia international Adam Taggart went close three times in the first half before another header off a Harakawa corner, this time by Tiago Pagnussat in the 69th minute, ensured an opening win for the J-League side.

The group phase of the competition's matches in the west zone ended in April.

Only the winners of each group advance to the last 16 of the tournament where they will be joined by the three best-placed runners-up.