BGPU aiming for a double in crunch ASEAN derby

BG Pathum United are looking for the same again as they try to edge closer to a place in the last 16 of the AFC Champions League (ACL).

The Thai champions take on Viettel on Monday and a repeat of Friday’s 2-0 victory over the Vietnamese side would leave them very well placed to advance from Group F.

BGPU should be able to take care of business when they meet struggling Kaya FC on Matchday 5, so a victory in this Matchday 4 clash should see Aurelio Vidmar’s men finishing the group stage with at least 12 points.

But the Vietnamese champions have shown that they are not to be underestimated and another bruising 90 minutes awaits.

Hit the ground running

The worst part of BGPU’s performance on Friday was a sluggish opening 10 minutes. Viettel took control and the momentum only shifted when a kind break of the ball allowed Thitiphan Puangchan to smash the ball home for the opening goal in the 13th minute.

Vidmar’s side will have to start with greater intensity to ensure that their opponents do not sense an opportunity to get back into the running for second place in the group.

When Viettel face Ulsan Hyundai on Matchday 5, the South Korean side is likely to be sitting on 12 points. Should Ulsan choose to rotate, this might help the Vietnamese club in their quest to take what could be a vital one or three points.

BGPU can quickly extinguish these hopes with a fast start and another early goal. Viettel’s suspect discipline may disintegrate if they find themselves up against it from the start and a stronger referee may further weaken their chances by applying the rules.

Stay on the front foot

BGPU fans breathed a sigh of relief when Chaowat Veerachart’s fine 84th-minute strike settled Friday’s match. Chaowat was one of several smart substitutions that paid off for Vidmar.

However, for much of the second half, BGPU were back in Thai League mode and seemingly content to let Viettel have possession. There are good reasons for the Rabbits to have confidence in their ability to defend a lead but it seems a high risk strategy in such a crucial match.

The Thai champions should try and take an early lead and keep as much control as possible regardless of the scoreline. Viettel’s need for the points will force them to rethink their approach to this match, but BGPU should aim to dominate their opponents from the first whistle.

BGPU had great success in holding onto 1-0 leads in last year’s Thai League campaign. With 30 games in a season, that was an effective tactic. In a one-off match that is likely to decide whether or not they make it to the last 16, a bolder approach may be necessary.

Keep calm and carry on

In a local derby, tempers are often short and one rash challenge can end a team’s hopes of victory. On Friday, it was not surprising to see the familiar pantomime villain Nguyen Trong Hoang collapse to the ground holding his face following an innocuous early collision, and there was more to come.

BGPU’s ability to stay calm in the face of provocation and abject refereeing was admirable on Friday, but they will have to do it all over again. Viettel are undoubtedly a tough opponent, but their ability on the ball can be overshadowed by their commitment to the dark arts.

The referee’s failure to send off rugged defender Que Ngoc Hai for multiple brutish challenges or punish striker Caique’s persistent feigning of injury made Friday’s victory more fraught than it might have been. The overall standard of refereeing in the tournament does not give hope that things will be different on Monday.

As such, BGPU cannot afford to get drawn into the kind of battle that Viettel might want. There will almost certainly be more diving, more unpunished cynical fouls and a genuine attacking threat from a side that desperately needs three points to keep interest in the tournament alive.

BGPU showed on Friday that they have the edge in quality and depth. They just need to prove it for a second time in four days.

Paul Murphy

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