Melbourne City have earned a key victory in their Asian Champions League qualifying group, beating Buriram United 2-0 on a steaming night in Thailand to forge three points clear at the top of the standings.
First-half goals from teenager Alessandro Lopane and captain Jamie Maclaren proved enough for City who found themselves on the back foot for much of Wednesday’s group H contest.
The win puts City on seven points after three unbeaten matches with their nearest pursuers, Japan’s Ventforet Kofu, on four points. Only the group winners are guaranteed qualification for the knockout stages.
“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’s used to the conditions was a big test, ” said delighted City boss Rado Vidosic.
“I’m very proud of the boys and the effort they put in.”
City did not earn many chances but proved more clinical than the home side, who were managed by Arthur Papas, former boss of Newcastle Jets.
They could easily have been behind before Croatian Marin Jakolis forged a break down the left wing and crossed for 19-year-old prospect Lopane, coming in from the other flank, to head home.
Maclaren could have doubled the lead on the half hour, only to be denied by Buriram’s keeper Siwarak Tedsungnoen, but he did strike four minutes before the break when Jakolis again provided the key assist for the captain to volley home in style.
Jakolis and Maclaren nearly combined again in similar fashion just after the break, with the Buriram keeper again thwarting Maclaren, before the captain thrashed the ball into the side netting.
From then on, the home side enjoyed the lion’s share of opportunities, with City’s veteran keeper Jamie Young making a fine save from Peeradol Chamrasamee.
The two sides will met again in two weeks in Melbourne.