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Chiangrai United’s AFC Champions League win was a gift to the Thai people, says Alongkorn

Doha: Chiangrai United interim boss Alongkorn Thongaum paid tribute to his players, labelling their stunning 2-1 win over FC Seoul a gift to the nation of Thailand at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Friday.

The Beetles had lost 5-0 to Seoul just three days earlier, and even a draw would have seen them eliminated from the competition, but two goals from 36-year-old Brazilian striker Bill gave them a historic win which not only lifted the club’s spirits but revived their hopes of reaching the Round of 16.

Chiangrai’s win gives them three points from four matches, putting them within three of second placed Seoul with two group stage matches remaining.

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The only Thai club competing in the group stage this year, Chiangrai had been criticised after Tuesday’s heavy defeat, and Alongkorn said he was delighted to have struck a blow on behalf of Thai football.

“The most important thing is that we gave a gift to the Thai people today,” declared Alongkorn, who is working alongside Brazilian tactician Emerson Da Silva in the Chiangrai dugout.

“We followed what we planned and our tactics and, in the end, we got the result. It was the result we expected.”

Group E - MD4: Chiangrai United 2-1 FC Seoul

On the eve of kick-off, Alongkorn had targeted scoring the game’s first goal as a key psychological factor for his side, and they achieved that objective with Bill netting from close range in the 40th minute.

Seoul came roaring back in the early stages of the second half. Park Chu-young levelled just before the hour mark, not long after failing to convert with a weak penalty kick, but Bill emerged as the matchwinner in the 89th minute, calmly converting a cross by the pink-haired Sivakorn Tiatrakul to unleash wild celebrations.

While the points weren’t secure until the final moments of the match, Alongkorn maintained that scoring had given his side the belief they had been missing.

“The first goal was very important for us and it gave us a lot of confidence,” he said. “We believed after the first goal that we still had the hope to win. Okay, we made some mistakes, we conceded a goal, but finally we came back to grab the win.

“I feel grateful for the support, and It’s great for us that we still have the chance to win, and we hope that we can still qualify.”

While disappointment turned to joy for Chiangrai, it was the polar opposite experience for Seoul, whose position in Group E suddenly appears significantly less stable than it had 24 hours earlier.

Given the ease of their previous win against the same team, Seoul had been expected to account for Chiangrai for the second time in four days, but interim boss Lee Won-jun dismissed suggestions his players had taken their Thai opponents lightly.

“We prepared well, but we made a few mistakes in our build up play and then conceded a goal. From there, it was hard for us,” said Lee.

“We talked to the players and we prepared well enough. Conceding a goal affected the players, there was more pressure for us, and we found it hard after that. I think the players gave their best and I want to acknowledge their effort.”

Lee also defended his side’s tactical approach in the dying minutes of the match, in which Seoul players eagerly hunted a winning goal, only to be exposed at the other end of the pitch.

“This was a game that we had to win,” he declared. “It was a very important game, but I think we tried a lot of patterns of attack to score a goal, but nothing worked and that’s why we lost the game.

“(From here) we are going to treat every game like a final. We are going to try and win each game that remains. We are going to dour best.”

Photos: Chiangrai United, AFC

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