AFC ‘confident’ of finishing Champions League season: Top official

Windsor John, AFC general secretary
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Updated 05 September 2020

AFC ‘confident’ of finishing Champions League season: Top official

  • Windsor John AFC general secretary

KUALA LUMPUR: Asia’s football body is “confident” of completing its coronavirus-hit Champions League this year, a senior official told AFP on Friday, as it heads into a frantic period of games with some venues still unknown.
The region’s showpiece tournament has been on hold since March, creating a heavy backlog before West Asia group games resume in Qatar on Sept. 14.
Two of the East Asia groups will be played from Oct. 16 in Malaysia, but no host has been announced for the two remaining pools or the knockout stages for the Eastern clubs.
Only two rounds of games were possible before the shutdown, and teams from China have played no matches at all. But Asian Football Confederation general secretary Windsor John said everything will be completed before the year’s end.
“We remain committed and confident of completing the competition within the 2020 calendar year,” he said.
John said more details on East Zone matches would be announced after an AFC executive meeting next week. The competition’s single-leg final is scheduled for Dec. 5.
The pandemic continues to spread worldwide and several countries in Asia are battling serious outbreaks. But John said he believes the Champions League can restart safely.
“We have engaged with our medical experts to establish several guidelines taking reference the industry’s best practices to minimize the risks,” he said.

BACKGROUND

The region’s showpiece tournament has been on hold since March, creating a heavy backlog before West Asia group games resume in Qatar on Sept. 14.

When asked separately about a Japanese report claiming the AFC had asked for a further postponement, an official reiterated that the governing body was “confident” of finishing the tournament this year.
A bio-secure “bubble” has been put in place for the resumption of matches in Qatar, similar to one implemented for the UEFA Champions League.
Under the arrangement in Lisbon, players and officials were subject to strict rules. These included having to undergo virus tests, and only being allowed to leave their hotels with prior agreement.
Asked if Asian football will continue to be disrupted even into next year, John said the AFC was working on the 2021 calendar, but that safety was paramount.
“The safety of our teams, players, officials, broadcast partners and stakeholders will always remain the highest priority, and we will not hesitate to make difficult decisions if necessary,” he said.
“Our commitment remains focused on completing our competitions as much as possible and the safe resumption of Asian football.”
John also played down concerns over the introduction of VAR, which is due to be used from the quarterfinals of this year’s Champions League for the first time.


Beijing Guaon pounce on rusty Melbourne in 3-1 victory

Updated 25 November 2020

Beijing Guaon pounce on rusty Melbourne in 3-1 victory

  • The Chinese side have one foot in the last-16 of the Asian Champions League

DOHA: Beijing Guoan have one foot in the last-16 of the Asian Champions League after a convincing 3-1 win against a rusty Melbourne Victory side on Tuesday extended their perfect record in Group E to three from three.

Another Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua also improved their chances of qualification from Group F with their second win in three matches, edging past FC Tokyo 1-0, courtesy of a late penalty.

But it was Bruno Genesio’s Beijing outfit who sent out a strong warning to their rivals in the tournament by following up on their win over FC Seoul last week with another impressive performance in Doha where the tournament’s eastern zone matches are being played after a nine-month break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Beijing clearly looked a class above Melbourne Victory who were largely lackluster both in attack and defense, with even the Australian side’s consolation goal late in the second half coming through a huge deflection from Kim Min-Jae after substitute Gianluca Ianucci’s powerful shot from nearly 25 yards appeared heading straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Beijing allowed their Australian rivals only 40 percent ball possession and that worked hugely in their favor as they created chances galore at the Al-Sadd Sports Club.

But once again, it was their Brazilian presence which played a pivotal role, with Renato Augusto and A Lan on target in the 22nd and 34th minutes before Wang Zimin’s brilliant goal in the 74th minute to put the match out of Victory’s reach.

Frenchman Genesio, who has been in charge at Beijing Guoan for almost 16 months, was not in a very celebratory mood despite his team’s 100 percent win record so far.

“In the first half we played really well as we tried high pressing as we trained before the game and were successful in keeping control,” said Genesio.

“The only thing I am disappointed about is that we conceded one goal towards the end. We need to be more serious and cautious towards the end of the game.”

Melbourne Victory, for whom this was their second defeat in three matches — their only win came in February against Chiangrai United — are now third in the standings and would need a herculean comeback to qualify for the knockout phase.

“For us, It’s not the result we wanted,” said Victory’s Steve Kean, whose side had no match practice for several months before heading to Doha. “This was our very first match of any type, we did not even play any friendlies and came against a Beijing side that have played a full season.

2We wanted to win and take points but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”

Meanwhile, Shanghai Shenhua were celebrating their success over Tokyo FC after Yu Hanchao’s successful penalty in the 74th minute proved the decisive moment in the match.

“FC Tokyo is a great team but today we really wanted to limit their opportunities,” said Shenhua coach Choi Kang-hee.

“Our players really overcame their difficulties of fitness and fatigue. They persisted from the first minute until the end and I thank them for that.

“They showed great mental power and spirit and I believe they will get better from here,” he added.

Tokyo FC’s Kenta Hasegawa was clearly upset, although he was not losing hope yet despite his team being in third place in the standings with four points from three matches

“The result is disappointing. This was the first game in the AFC Champions League for many of our young players,” Hasegawa said.

“They were not ready for this game, but I am sure the will be ready for the next.”