Hong Kong minnows drawn with giants Guangzhou
Hong Kong trailblazer Chan Yuen-ting, the first woman coach to win a top-flight men’s football title, faces a brutal AFC Champions League initiation after her Eastern SC were bracketed yesterday with Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande. Chan will face off in Group G against World Cupwinning Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and his Guangzhou side, who will be gunning for their third Champions League title in five years. They are joined in the group by Suwon Samsung Bluewings of South Korea and a yet-to-be determined Japanese club.
In her debut season, Chan, 28, led Eastern Sports Club to Hong Kong’s Premier League title in April for the first time in 21 years. That earned her a Guinness World Record as the first woman coach to win a men’s championship title in a top national football league. In a tough Group H, defending Champions League winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were drawn with A-League champions Adelaide United and Jiangsu FC of China, according to the group-stage draw announced at AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. UAE powerhouse Al Ain, last year’s runners-up, will begin their campaign from Group C alongside formidable foes Al Ahli FC of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s Zobahan FC, and the winner of a play-off between Qatar’s El Jaish SC and FC Bunyodkor from Uzbekistan, the AFC said. The group stage runs from February to May, followed by the knockout phase, with the final set for November of next year. Al Ahli FC (UAE), PFC Lokomotiv (UZB), Al Taawoun (KSA), Playoff winner Esteghlal Khouzestan FC (IRN), Al Jazira (UAE), Lekhwiya SC (QAT), Playoff winner Al Ahli Saudi FC (KSA), Zobahan FC (IRN), Al Ain FC (UAE), Playoff winner Al Rayyan SC (QAT), Al Hilal SFC (KSA), Persepolis FC (IRN), Playoff winner Kashima Antlers (JPN), Muangthong United (THA), Playoff winner, Playoff winner.
FC Seoul (KOR), Japan 2nd Club (JPN), Western Sydney Wanderers (AUS), Playoff winner
Guangzhou Evergrande FC (CHN), Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR), stillundetermined Japan Club, Eastern SC (HKG)
Adelaide United (AUS), Jiangsu FC (CHN), Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR), Playoff winner. — AFP
TURIN: In this Dec. 11, 2016 file photo, Juventus’ Gonzalo Higuain celebrates at the end of a Serie A soccer match between Torino and Juventus, in Turin, Italy. — AP