Kitchee, club from Hong Kong, successfully qualified for the Round of 16 for the first time. After tied with Vissel Kobe, club from Japan with a score of 2-2 in the AFC Champions League 2022 group stage, Group J at Buriram Stadium.
Vissel’s Lincoln had opened the scoring with a penalty on 44 minutes, but Dejan Damjanovic responded for Kitchee in first half stoppage time with his own conversion from the spot. Substitute Yoshinori Muto had looked to break Kitchee hearts on 87 minutes but in stunning scenes Baena had a final say on proceedings.
A cagey opening in Buriram saw Kitchee forward Damjanovic have the match’s first shot on target after 18 minutes, but Daiya Maekawa comfortably held the deflected strike, diving to his right.
Maekawa was then forced into action once more by Helio and Damjanovic, before the latter was set through on goal by Cleiton on 32 minutes only to be denied by a last-ditch tackle from Leo Osaki.
While Kitchee had the lion’s share of the efforts on goal, Vissel dominated possession, and with a minute remaining of the first half they also had the lead.
After a penetrating run from captain Hotaru Yamaguchi, Lincoln was brought down by Baena inside the area, and the Brazilian dusted himself off to give Vissel the lead following a stuttered run-up to send Paulo Cesar the wrong way.
But there was to be late drama before the half-time whistle. Osaki was penalised for a handball in the box and the AFC Champions League’s all-time top scorer Damjanovc stepped up to score goal number 42 and extend his continental record.
Things continued in the same vein after the restart with Vissel dominating the ball but struggling to create openings and, shortly after the hour mark, Miguel Angel Lotina had seen enough and added some firepower to his ranks with the summoning off the bench of Japan strikers Muto and Yuya Osako.
But it was Tetsushi Yamakawa who went closest to restoring their lead on 73 minutes as his header from Ryo Hatsuse’s free-kick called Cesar into a sprawling stop.
As Kitchee began to sit back and look to secure the point that would see them into the Round of 16, Vissel poured forward in waves, and it was Muto who made his mark with three minutes remaining.
Credit Photo : AFC