Muangthong United are one win away from playing in the AFC Champions League for the second season in a row after beating Ha Noi T&T 2-0 in Saturday’s second-round qualifier.
The hosts took the lead five minutes after the half-hour mark when Thitipan Puangchan’s left-wing cross to the back post was brilliantly nodded back by Jay Bothroyd into the path of Mario Gjurovski, who made no mistake in lashing a ferocious shot into the back of the net.
The visitors’ hopes were then dealt a real blow in the 57th minute when Sam Gallagher was sent off following a last-man challenge on Teerasil Dangda, and the Twin Qilins secured the win five minutes later when Bothroyd scored a fine individual effort; picking up possession just inside the opposition half and charging into the box before blasting a shot past Nguyen Van Cong at the near post.
The game did end on a sour note when both Muangthong defender Artit Daosawang and Ha Noi forward Samson Kayode Olahey were dismissed in injury-time, but it was the Thai Premier League giants who were left celebrating at the final whistle as they moved one step closer to playing in Asia’s premier club competition.
The Twin Qilins will now face A-League outfit Melbourne Victory next Saturday in the third round of qualifying for a place in the group stage, while the V.League 1 side head to the AFC Cup and will play in Group F against Indonesian giants Arema Cronus, Selangor of Malaysia and Maldives’ Maziya.
Muangthong’s Thai Premier League rivals Chonburi will be looking to do the same on Sunday when they take on Hong Kong’s South China in their second-round qualifier, with a third-round tie against Beijing Guoan the prize on offer.