On January 4th, 2017 in Laos’ capital, Vientiane, the Champions of the Lao Premier League, Lanexang United FC preserved their unbeaten record in the Toyota Mekong Club Championship 2016 by upsetting the defending champions Buriram United FC by the score of 1-0. With the win, Lanexang United seized control of the finals and put themselves in a great position to win the championship trophy before they play the second leg away from home on Sunday 8th January 2017 at Thammasat Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
The atmosphere in the overflowing Chao Anouvong Stadium was loud and electrifying. Fans from all over Vientiane came out to support the home team, while Buriram United supporters were also very visible and supportive of their club. Acknowledging their fans, both teams started the match with their best squad. Lanexang United started Aaron Evans in the central back position. Sengdao Inthilath, Kosuke Yamazaki, and Phouthaxay Khochalern controlled the midfield, while Soukaphone Vongchiengkham and Khampheng Sayavutthi lead the attack. Buriram United countered with their two Brazilian forwards Diogo Luis Santo and Rogrio Countin.
The match started as both teams came out confident and ready to compete. But in the first five minutes, Lanexang United played with more urgency and created many chances with Captain Soukaphone chasing down and challenging every ball near him. Lanexang United caught the Thai team off guard in the 16th minute, when Soukaphone crossed the ball from the left-wing into the box and Khampheng heading the ball down past the opposing goalkeeper. After conceding the goal, Buriram United tried to attack in hopes of a comeback. They had a chance to score an equaliser in the 28th minute when Countin fired a long strike on goal. However, Lanexang’s custodian Soukthavy Dalavong read the shot to save the goal. Both teams continued to play at a physically high pace, but neither team could break each other’s defence line and the first half ended with Lanexang leading 1-0.
In the second half, Buriram United came out motivated and quickly gained momentum by keeping more possession of play than Lanexang United. It seemed like Lanexang was more than happy to take more defensive approach to start the second half and were committed to rely on their counter attack. Buriram’s tactic seemed to be working when they had a flurry of chances within the first 10 minutes of play. Luis Santo chipped a ball onto Ko Seul Ki’s run into the box, but Lanexang’s keeper, Soukthavy’s brilliant diving save kept the score at 1-0.
At the 74th mark, Lanexang United came close to score their second goal from a quick counter attack started by Khonesavan Syhavong’s crossing ball from the left wing to Oulai Saypraseuth, who from 18 yards out, shot the ball wide of the goal. As the minutes ticked down to the final whistle, Buriram’s offense kept the pressure on the Lanexang defence by winning multiple free kicks and having a plethora of chances to equalise. But, Lanexang’s defence held strong and denied all of Buriram’s chances. When the whistle blew after 4 minutes of extended time, Lanexang United and their jovial fans celebrated a narrow 1-0 victory.
At the post-match press conference, the head coach of Buriram United, Ranko Popovic said, “We would like to congratulate Lanexang United FC on the win and their fans for coming out to watch the game in massive numbers. It made the match more fun and exciting. For the first-half, we didn’t perform well, but in the second half we tried to improve our play and score a goal. Even though we lost tonight’s game, we still have the second leg to play in Bangkok.”
Lanexang United’s Head Coach, Leonardo Vitorino said, “I would like to thank the players and staff members of Lanexang United FC as well as the fans all over Laos. This match is one of the best matches we’ve played, and we are so proud of it. Although, after playing and training for 15 consecutive days and our players being very tired, everyone did their jobs and we played according to our game plan. Our opponent tried to play a few long balls, but our defenders responded well. I told our players that if we play the ball on the ground, we will beat Buriram. It worked. However, we still have the second match to play in Thailand. We promise we will play our best and bring home a trophy for the fans in Laos.”
Lanexang United successfully earned a victory at home, but for the second leg match will be played at Buriram United’s home country. The match will be on Sunday 8th, January 2017 at Thammasat Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. The match will start from 19:00. This game will decide the champion of the Toyota Mekong Club Championship 2016.