UNITED CITY FC looks to do better when it returns to AFC Champions League group play action on Monday after experiencing back-to-back drubbings previously. — AFC

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

AT the raw end of back-to-back drubbings at the ongoing 2021 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL), reigning Philippines Football League champion United City Football Club seeks to have a better showing when it returns to action on Monday in Uzbekistan.

United City (0-1-2), currently tail-ending in Group I, takes on Japan league champion Kawasaki Frontale (3-0-0) in the scheduled 10 p.m. (Manila time) match at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Tashkent.

Group I-leading Kawasaki Frontale was the same team that routed United City, 8-0, on July 2. Prior to it, the Filipino side was the recipient of a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Korea’s Daegu FC.

Against Kawasaki Frontale last time aroung, United City trailed by two by the midway point with Kaoru Mitoma (33’) and Ryota Oshima (42’) accounting for the goals of the Japanese club.

It only got worse for United City in the second half as Kawasaki Frontale was unrelenting in its attack.

Midfielder Kento Tachibanaba spearheaded his team’s onslaught, scoring a hat trick (56’, 65’ and 70’). Leandro Damiao (50’), Mr. Mitoma and Yasuto Wakizaka (92’) scored the three other goals for Kawasaki Frontale as they went on to book their third straight victory.

United City coach Jason Withe admitted that it has been tough for his team in the ACL so far but encouraged his players to continue to fight it out and improve.

“If you want to play at this level you’ve got to step your game up a little bit. You’re playing against the best players in Asia, so you’ve got to challenge yourself,” he said.

Meanwhile, the other Philippine club in the 2021 ACL — Kaya FC-Iloilo — also returns to action on Monday against defending tournament champion Ulsan Hyundai of Korea in a match set for 6 p.m. at the Pathum Thani Stadium in Thailand.

Kaya FC (0-0-3) is currently last in Group F while Ulsan Hyundai leads with an unblemished 3-0-0 card.

The two met last Friday, with the Korean club winning, 3-0.

In the AFC Champions League, the top teams in each of the groupings advance to the Round of 16 with the second-place clubs qualifying if they end up as among the best runner-up teams.