Philippines’ Kaya FC became the first side to score against Ulsan Hyundai in the Asian Champions League this year but couldn’t stop the holders from clinching a narrow 2-1 victory on Monday.
The South Korean giants stuck to their task despite being reduced to 10 men in the 31st minute as their star midfielder Yoon bit-Garam returned from injury to score a brace at the Leo Stadium in Thanyaburi.
The victory took Ulsan to 12 points from four games in Group F and also extended their record winning streak in the tournament to 13 consecutive matches.
At last year’s competition in Qatar, Ulsan had won the title for the second time in their history with an amazing run of nine straight wins with Yoon adjudged the tournament MVP.
Ulsan made an enterprising start with Kim Min-jun and Lukas Hinterseer testing the Kaya FC goalkeeper Zach Banzon inside the first 10 minutes.
The South Koreans finally got past the disciplined Filipinos in the 27th minute — in unusual fashion.
Hinterseer collected Kim’s pass from the right and unleashed a powerful shot that caught Yoon, who had fallen down near the six-yard box, in the face.
Yoon was thoroughly shaken up by the blow while the other Ulsan players celebrated as the ball took a big deflection and beat Kaya goalkeeper Banzon who was making his continental debut.
Ulsan lost Kim to a straight red card when he fouled Marco Casambre, leading to a change in momentum with Kaya fancying their chances.
The debutants, however, had to wait until two minutes after the break to find the equaliser with Jovin Bedic finding the net from a tight angle off a pass from Ryo Fujii.
Ulsan reclaimed the lead in the 51st minute with Yoon nicely controlling Oh Se-hun’s pass and shooting powerfully past Banzon.
Kaya threatened a couple of times but remained without a single point after losing all their four matches.
Also in Group F, Thailand’s BG Pathum United rallied from a goal down to beat Vietnam’s Viettel 3-1 for their third win and keep their hopes alive of making the last 16.
Pedro Paulo put Viettel ahead in the 23rd minute but their Thai rivals hit back after the break during an eight-minute purple patch with Brazilian Diogo scoring once and assisting in the other two goals.
Chaowat Veerachart struck first for Pathum to score the equalizer in the 56th minute from a Diogo pass and Venezuelan Andres Tunez made it 2-0 just six minutes later.
Diogo added the third goal in the 64th minute to hand Viettel their third defeat of the tournament.
Elsewhere, Kawasaki Frontale boosted their chances of a last-16 berth with a 2-0 win over the Philippines’ United City in Tashkent.
Kei Chinen gave the Japanese side an 18th minute lead before Tatsuya Hasegawa put the outcome beyond doubt late in the second half.
The victory took Kawasaki to 12 points from four matches in Group I while United City stayed winless at the bottom.
Also in Group I, Daegu FC kept themselves in the hunt with a 3-0 rout of Beijing Guoan, with Jeong Chi-in scoring a second half brace after Kim Jin-Hyuk’s 45th minute strike.
It was Daegu’s third win in the competition as they took their tally to nine points, three behind leaders Kawasaki Frontale.