Isuzu UTE A-League Premiers Melbourne City tightened their grip at top of Group H after brushing aside Thai champions Buriram United.
Melbourne City’s smooth progress through the AFC Champions League continued with a comfortable and highly professional 2-0 win away to Thai champions Buriram United.
First-half goals by Alex Lopane and Jamie Maclaren confirmed a second win in three Group H games for City, solidifying their position at the top of the standings, and leaving them well placed for progression from the group.
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City weathered an early storm from United, coached by former Newcastle boss Arthur Papas who was seeking his first win over City in his fifth game coaching against them.
Had Goran Causic made more of two early chances then the outcome might have been different – first side-footing wide at the near post, then drawing a sharp save from Jamie Young with a header in the same spot.
But on a night when several of City’s new faces proved influential, Croatian winger Marin Jakolis enjoyed a productive first half on the left wing, and helped to create the breakthrough in the 22nd minute.
Maclaren started it with a ball into space, and Jakolis took his time before dropping a perfect cross on the head of Lopane. Though a linesman’s flag initially cut short the celebrations, VAR intervened to give the goal.
That was a good start for City, whose coach Rado Vidosic was absent from the touchline through illness, and they moved into a even greater comfort zone just before halftime. Jakolis was a gain the architect, once more proving the value of his left foot with a deep cross met by an emphatic and nicely judged volley through a crowd of players and in from Maclaren.
Buoyed by the lead, City set up shop to see out the game, as Buriram threw numbers forward but failed to trouble Young significantly on what turned into a very satisfactory night for the A-League Men premiers.
At 26, Marin Jakolis should be in the prime of his career, but the winger seems at a crossroads at his fifth club in four years. Currently Jakolis is on loan to City from Ligue 2 side Angers, but the early signs are highly promising with two assists here from a very cultured left foot. The only blot on his performance was a theatrical tumble claiming he had been elbowed late in the game, which could – and – should – have earned him a second yellow card of the night.
What they said
Melbourne City coach Rado Vidosic: “It was a very hard game in hot conditions. Last week in Melbourne was only 15 degrees so to come and play 90 minutes against a team that is used to the conditions was a big test.
“I’m very proud of the boys and the effort they put in. We’re looking forward now to our next game in the A-League and definitely our return leg against Buriram.”
What it means
With seven points from three games, City are sitting pretty at the top of the group with a three-point buffer from second-placed Ventforet Kofu.
Vidosic’s side now have two of their remaining three games at home, starting with the return against Buriram on November 8. With the group wrapped up by mid-December, qualification for the knockout stages looks a good bet for an early Christmas present for City’s fans. For now, though, attention turns to a visit to Adelaide United on Sunday.