A roar erupted from the Shandong Taishan bench, and the Chinese side’s players and officials burst forward in unison with fists raised to the Buriram sky. 

It was 21 April, the final whistle had gone at the Buriram City Stadium, and the youth team of the Chinese Super League champions had come away with a 0-0 draw against the Lion City Sailors in Group F of the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL). 

Shandong players put their bodies on the line that Thursday, defending like their lives depended on it. And the Chinese side are poised to line up the same way when they face the Sailors again tomorrow (24 April). 

“The Lion City (Sailors) will definitely perform better than the last game. For us we must stay humble,  focus on the pitch – especially focus on defence – and try to perform our duty,” said Shandong coach Yu Yuanwei. 

“LCS have great foreign players, and their (local) players have strong ability as well. We will try to handle them through tactics and the mental aspect (of our game).” 

Speaking at the pre-match press conference in Buriram earlier today, both Yu and his goalkeeper Cao Zheng referred to the Sailors as “Singapore”, and Cao called on his team to draw on their own national pride tomorrow. 

“We are a club from China, we are Shandong Taishan FC – we will 100 percent try to show our club culture and show our national spirit,” said Cao.

“We are a young squad who came here to show our ability…failure is something we will definitely (face) throughout this group stage. We will stay humble…and obey our coach’s instructions.” 

Shandong are currently bottom of Group F with one point, behind the Sailors (four points), and Urawa Red Diamonds and Korean side Daegu FC who are both on six points, in what is a wide open Group F. 

But Yu is not expecting his charges to surprise the continent and qualify for the Round of 16. 

“Finishing in the top two is still possible in theory, but for us we never thought about finishing in the top two in this group,” he said.  

“We are focused on the pitch, and how to let the players show their ability, show what they can do.”