BANGKOK: Beijing Guoan struck a blow for virus-hit Chinese football and sent a message of support for the locked-down city of Wuhan with a 1-0 win over Chiangrai United in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
With most Chinese clubs sidelined over the deadly coronavirus outbreak, Beijing — with “Go on, Wuhan!” emblazoned on their shirts — grabbed a deserved victory thanks to Wang Ziming’s first-half goal.
Beijing were cleared to play in Thailand as they have been training outside of China, avoiding stringent travel restrictions imposed on Chinese passport holders around Asia.
It was the first and only Champions League game involving a Chinese club until at least April, after the Asian Football Confederation delayed the entry of Chinese teams into the competition.
The domestic Chinese Super League has also been suspended indefinitely over COVID-19, which has killed nearly 1,900 people since emerging in Wuhan — where strict containment measures have been imposed.
Beijing, wearing their specially designed shirts, and with some of their fans wearing facemasks, took the lead in the 23rd minute when Jonathan Viera set up man-of-the-match Wang.
The Spanish midfielder drew two defenders as he bore down on goal before dinking the ball to Wang, who finished smartly into the far corner.
Chiangrai had their chances but Beijing always looked the stronger and Cedric Bakambu was unlucky not to double their lead when he slammed a shot against the upright in injury time.
Earlier, Leandro’s fine strike gave FC Tokyo a 1-0 win over debutants Perth Glory, and former Arsenal forward Park Chu-young scored as FC Seoul beat Melbourne Victory by the same margin.
FC Tokyo dominated proceedings against Perth in the Japanese capital, but it was a turgid affair that looked destined for a goalless draw until Leandro’s brilliant winner with eight minutes to go.
The 26-year-old made space on the edge of the box and unleashed a dipping shot that curled inside goalkeeper Liam Reddy’s far post.
It made for a disappointing maiden outing for Perth, last year’s A-League runners-up whose coach Tony Popovic guided Western Sydney Wanderers to the Asian title in 2014.
In Seoul, Park, 34, swept home the only goal in the eighth minute to extend Victory’s winless streak against Korean opposition to 16 games.