Buriram United remain at the top of Group F in the AFC Champions League after coming from behind to play out a 1-1 draw with Gamba Osaka on Wednesday.
It was the Japanese outfit who took the lead at the Osaka Expo ’70 Stadium in the 39th minute when Hiroyuki Abe opened the scoring, but Theerathon Bunmathan equalised with a stunning freekick two minutes after the hour mark to earn Buriram a share of the spoils.
After Seongnam had moved level at the top of the standings by beating Guangzhou R&F 1-0 on Tuesday, the draw in Japan was enough to hand the Thai Premier League giants back a one-point lead at the halfway mark of the group stage.
Having claimed impressive victories over Seongnam and Guangzhou in their opening two matches, the Thunder Castle entered Wednesday’s clash looking to maintain their perfect record against a Gamba side that had yet to pick up any points.
The visitors had an excellent chance to break the deadlock after four minutes when Diogo climbed well inside the area to meet a lovely freekick from Suchao Nutnum, only to send his header wide of the mark.
Four minutes later, they came close again after brilliant improvisation by Prakit Deeprom saw him acrobatically send a mid-air volley looping towards goal, but Masaaki Higashiguchi raced back in time to claw it to safety.
However, Gamba did eventually find their rhythm and threatened for the first time when Abe found space on the edge of the box and rifled away a low shot that Sivaruck Tedsungnoen managed to push onto the bar.
As the half wore on, the hosts really began to dominate proceedings and they duly opened the scoring six minutes before halftime after good work by Patric saw him charge down the right and pick out Takashi Usami with a low cross.
Although Sivaruck did well to keep out the ex-Bayern Munich man’s initial effort, there was little he could do to prevent Abe from pouncing on the rebound and firing a shot into the unguarded net.
Still, Buriram refused to be deterred by falling behind and raised their efforts after the break; Diogo wasting a half-chance in the 56th minute when he unleashed a snapshot from outside the area that safely skipped past the near post.
But just six minutes later, the equaliser finally arrived when Theerathon lined up a freekick 25 yards out from goal, and proceeded to send a spectacular curling effort that sailed past Higashiguchi’s despairing dive and dipped into the top corner.
The visitors were then unlucky not to edge ahead from another set-piece situation in the 74th minute and this time it was captain Suchao Nutnum who unleashed a long-range effort, only to see it bounce off the bar and out to safety.
As the game entered its closing stages, Gamba began to push more and more men forward in search of the winner, but it was the Thunder Castle who looked more dangerous on the counter.
Theerathon could have turned provider in the 79th minute when he played a brilliant through-pass to release Gilberto Macena, who raced through down the left but could only fire into the side-netting from a tight angle.
And four minutes from time, Buriram had one final chance to steal the win when Macena broke free on the left once more and clipped a dangerous cross into the six-yard box; Diogo getting in ahead of Higashiguchi but the Brazilian was just unable to divert the ball towards the gaping goal.
In the end, both sides had to settle for a share of the spoils when the final whistle blew shortly after, but Thunder Castle boss Alexandre Gama is likely to be satisfied with the result which keeps his side unbeaten in the competition and keeps them firmly on course for the knockout round.
Gamba Osaka: Masaaki Higashiguchi, Koki Yonekura, Daiki Niwa, Keisuke Iwashita, Oh Jae-suk (Hiroki Fujihara 60’), Hiroyuki Abe, Yasuhito Endo, Tomokazu Myojin, Kotari Omori (Lins 74’), Patric, Takashi Usami (Shingo Akamine 81’).
Buriram United: Sivaruck Tedsungnoen, Chitipat Tanklang, Andres Tunez, Korawit Namwiset, Narubodin Weerawatnodom (Suree Sukha 61’), Prakit Deeprom (Surat Sukha 73’), Suchao Nutnum, Go Seul-ki, Theerathon Bunmathan, Gilberto Macena, Diogo.