Group F hosts BG Pathum United suffered their first defeat of the 2021 AFC Champions League as they went down to reigning champions Ulsan Hyundai 2-0 in their second game at the Leo Stadium in Pathum Thani on Tuesday.
Despite the loss to the South Koreans, the Thai League 1 champions still find themselves in a good place, as they brace for a battle against fellow Southeast Asian side Viettel of Vietnam to advance as one of the three best second-placed teams from the East Zone.
Here is what Tuesday's results mean for the Rabbits and the two other ASEAN sides in the group.
Ulsan's quality proves too much for Pathum United
Pathum United went into their second game on a high after registering a one-sided 4-1 victory against Kaya FC-Iloilo of the Philippines in their opener. A brace apiece for strikers Diogo and Teerasil Dangda had been just what the doctor ordered for the Thais at the start of a major tournament.
However, facing the 2020 champions Ulsan was going to be an altogether different game. The Ulsan Tigers came into the game on the back of a ten-match winning streak in the competition, stretching all the way back to the start of the 2020 season.
Ulsan were without the influential Yoon Bit-garam -- last year's ACL Most Valuable Player -- who missed out due to an injury, but Hong Myung-bo's side were quick to take control of the game and found the opener through Kim Min-jun in the 24th minute.
Austrian forward Lukas Hinterseer doubled Ulsan's lead just before the half-time break by redirecting Lee Chung-yong's effort from distance into the back of the net. Heavy rain forced the game into a halt for almost half an hour in the second half, but Ulsan kept away any Thai attempts to mount a fightback.
Game on between BGPU and Viettel for second place
Two wins from two matches have given Ulsan a clear lead at the top with six points, but it is now Viettel who occupy second spot after their 5-0 thrashing of Kaya in the other match of the group.
A double from Brazilian attacker Caique and goals from Nguyen Hoang Duc, Bui Tien Dung and Vu Minh Tuan gave the Vietnamese champions their first-ever win in the continental championship and placed them above their Thai rivals on superior goal difference for now having not faced off against one another, although any tie in points will ultimately be decided by their head-to-head record.
Following a 1-0 defeat to Ulsan on their ACL debut, Vietnam now have a major boost before they face Pathum United in their next two fixtures on Jul. 2 and 5.
The back-to-back games will go a long way in deciding who among Viettel and Pathum United will have a shot at the knockout stages by finishing second and potentially qualifying as one of the best-placed runners-up -- now that the Philippines Football League runners-up Kaya are all but out of the running with a second straight defeat.
The Round of 16 battle in Group F is shaping up to be an interesting one -- what with two newcomers locking horns over the coming week in what is shaping up to be an outright duel to hopefully reach their first-ever knockout appearance in the AFC Champions League.