June 27 (Reuters) – Dejan Damjanovic became the all-time leading scorer in the Asian Champions League on Sunday as the former Montenegro striker netted in Kitchee’s 2-1 defeat to Japan’s Cerezo Osaka.
Damjanovic opened the scoring for the Hong Kong champions eight minutes before the interval to claim his 38th goal in the continental championship and move one ahead of South Korea’s Lee Dong-gook on the scorers’ list.
But Adam Taggart and Tiago Pagnussat scored second-half goals as the J-League club fought back to claim a second straight win in Group J of the competition at Buriram Stadium in Thailand.
“I’m a little bit disappointed because we weren’t victorious in this game,” said Damjanovic. “But I’m really happy and maybe tomorrow I’m going to be more energetic.
“Thirty-eight goals in the ACL is a huge thing and only those who play here can understand what that means.”
Cerezo dominated throughout against the Hong Kong champions but fell behind when Damjanovic converted with trademark coolness from 14 metres after a cut-back from Cleiton.
However, Taggart levelled from close range in the 69th minute and Tiago saw his long-range strike two minutes later fumbled over the line by Kitchee goalkeeper Paulo Cesar to give the Japanese side victory.
Earlier, Thailand’s Port FC secured their first-ever victory in the competition when they beat Guangzhou FC 3-0.
Headers from Elias Dolah and Pakorn Prempak gave Port a comfortable lead before Philip Roller came off the bench to add a third 14 minutes from fulltime.
Sergio Suarez then missed an injury-time penalty for Port, who showed little mercy to a Guangzhou side featuring a host of academy graduates after pandemic travel restrictions meant the club’s first team squad stayed at home.
The Asian Champions League, which has been expanded to 40 teams for this season, is being played in biosecure hubs due to the pandemic, with matches for teams in the east of the continent being played in Thailand and Uzbekistan.
Winners of each of the 10 groups – five in the east and five in the west – advance to the knockout rounds alongside the three runners-up on each side of the continent with the best records.
Teams in west Asia have already completed their group phase and the knockout rounds are scheduled to be played in September, with the final to be held in late November.
Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Toby Davis
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