Bill’s brace helps Chiangrai to bounce back for historic ACL victory

Bill Rosimar was Chiangrai United’s hero as the Thai champions claimed their first ever win in the AFC Champions League (ACL) group stage by defeating FC Seoul 2-1.

Bill struck the opener late in the first half and then hit a last-gasp winner following a brilliant counter attack after the Koreans had levelled through Park Chu-young.

It was an extremely impressive response to Tuesday’s abject performance in the 5-0 defeat to the same Group E opponents. It also gives them a fighting chance of reaching the last 16, and a win in Monday’s clash with Melbourne Victory could keep them in contention going into the final group match against runaway group leaders Beijing Guoan.

From the start it was clear that the Beetles had a little more steel in their approach than in Tuesday’s defeat.

Apirak Worawong replaced Saranon Anuin in goal, while Bill came in for the ineffective Jaja Coelho up front and was partnered by Akarawin Sawasdee.

Chiangrai’s more attacking approach was rewarded as they took advantage of FC Seoul’s defensive weaknesses. After an opening 30 minutes of few chances, Ekanit Panya’s glancing header almost gave the Beetles the lead.

Ekanit then surged down the left and his cut back was hammered into the net at the second attempt to give the Beetles the lead in the 40th minute.

Not only did it give Chiangrai the edge in this match, it was also their first goal in this year’s tournament, having drawn a blank in their three defeats to date.

FC Seoul came close to the equaliser in the 53rd minute but Apirak saved Park Chu-young’s weak penalty. However, Park soon made up for the miss by heading home from a corner following a misjudged jump by Apirak.

Unlike Tuesday, when Chiangrai folded following the disappointment of FC Seoul’s third goal, the Thai side responded positively. Siwakorn Tiatrakul and Chotipat Poomkaew came on to give them some added attacking impetus as they refused to settle for a point. 

The Beetles should have been awarded a penalty when Bill was hauled down in the penalty area, but FC Seoul would rightly point out that this evened the score. Sarawut Inpaen got away with an obvious handball in the first half that should have resulted in a penalty for the Koreans.

Chiangrai stuck to the task and were finally rewarded following a wonderful counter attack in the 89th minute. Just when it looked as if the counter may have run out of steam, Siwakorn floated a perfect cross to the back post and Bill ghosted in and sidefooted the ball into the corner of the net from a tight angle.

There was delirium on and off the pitch as players and coaching staff celebrated wildly. Bill almost completed a hattrick in added time, but he pushed an effort wide from close range.

In the end, it didn’t matter as FC Seoul could not respond. A 5-0 defeat had been turned into a 2-1 victory in the space of three days with a much improved performance.

While the Thai champions were rightly criticised for the way in which they imploded last time out, they deserve huge credit for their response. Interim head coach Emerson Pereira and his staff clearly did an excellent job of lifting the players’ morale and creating a strong game plan. 

There is little time to rest before Monday’s match against Melbourne, but they will go into that match believing that they can once again emerge victorious – particularly if a burly Brazilian called Bill is on the pitch.

Paul Murphy

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