Thursday, September 16, 2010

West Asia dominates ACL Quarter Finals

West Asian teams have dominated the first leg of the AFC Champions League Quarter Finals played overnight.

Only one East Asian team, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, managed a win and that was against fellow K-League side Suwon Bluewings.

Seongnam, featuring former Brisbane and Adelaide player Sasa Ognenovski, easily accounted for Suwon at the Tancheon Sports Complex.

Suwon’s recent K-League form has been brilliant and has seen them climb up the table after an awful start to the season. They were on a 9-game unbeaten run which ended last weekend when they were defeated 0-3 at home by league leaders Jeju United.

Seongnam on the other hand, had only won three of their past seven games, although they are sitting third on the table.

Dzenan Rodoncic

They did have a major home ground advantage however, having won 8 of their last 9 home games in the ACL. Ttheir last defeat took place six years ago in 2004 when Saudi side Al-Ittihad defeated them in the second leg of the 2004 AFC Champions League final.

Montenegrin striker Dzenan Radonic struck early to given Seongnam the lead. Colombian Mauricio Molina played Radonic through, who struck with power from the edge of the box. Suwon’s keeper Lee Woon-jae was helpless after the ball took a deflection off defender Kwak Hee-ju.

Just seven minutes later and the scores were level after a superbly taken free kick from dead-ball expert Yeom Ki-hun. Seongnam conceded a free kick just outside the box and Yeom made them pay with a beautiful free kick that curled around the wall and past the outstretched hand keeper Jung Sung-ryeong

The complexion of the game could’ve changed just moments later had Ha Tae-gyun not fluffed his lines. Yeom’s shot from the edge of the box was spilled by Jung, but Ha failed to make the most of the rebound, scuffing his shot into the ground and seeing the ball bounce over the crossbar.

It was a costly miss, with Seongnam taking the lead just ten minutes later. Suwon failed to deal with a floated ball into the box and Kim Cheol-ho pulled the ball back for Molina to knock home his fifth goal of the campaign and send the home side into the break up 2-1.

Seongnam wasted two golden opportunities to extend the lead on the hour mark, first through Radonic and then through Song Ho-young. Radonic made amends minutes later when he headed home a delightful cross Hong Chukl.

Suwon further compounded their problems when Yang Sang-min put the ball into his own net with just 10 minutes remaining.

They’ll need a monumental effort in the return leg to overcome the 4-1 deficit.

Fellow K-League side, and winner of the 2006 AFC Champions League, Jeonbuk Motors are all but out of the competition after losing 0-2 at home to Saudi side Al-Shabab.

This quarter finals appearance was Jeonbuk’s fourth in their history, joining Al-Ittihad as the only side to have played in four AFC Champions League Quarter Finals. Whilst it may have started as a night of celebration, it ended very differently.

Jeonbuk started brightly and Eninho, Sim Woo-yeon and Lee Dong-gook all had chances early to open the scoring but couldn’t get the job done.

Jeonbuk and Al-Shabab in their ACL Quater Final
As the half wore on, Al-Shabab started to dominate possession but they too couldn’t find the elusive goal.

Desperate to score at home and get the early advantage, Jeonbuk made a double-substitution early in the second half, bringing on strikers Luiz Henrique and Kruno Lovrek.

It was Al-Shabab who continued to dominate, however, and they should’ve taken the lead just before the hour mark when Omar Al Ghamdi headed over the crossbar from close range.

The crucial away goal came not long after though courtesy of Fahad Hamad, who found himself in the right place at the right time after Ahmed Ateef’s shot could only be deflected by Jeonbuk keeper Kim Min-sik. It was the young midfielders first game and goal of the campaign.

Eninho was denied an equaliser seven minutes later when his free-kick from outside the box struck the woodwork. Jeonbuk enjoyed a sustained period of dominance as they pushed for the all important equaliser, and their cause was aided late on when Al Khaibri was sent off for a second yellow card offence.

But despite playing with 10-men it was Al-Shabab who added a second shortly before full-time when Juan Manuel Olivera drove the ball wide of Kim to ensure the Saudi side would leave Jeonbuk with two crucial away goals.

Al-Shabab manager, Jorge Forsatti, was delighted with his sides performance.

"I am very happy because we won a very important game,” he said.

“We travelled a long time and I had to worry about the fitness of my players. Nevertheless we played as we planned and got the result we hoped.

"Jeonbuk played different football from my knowledge. They tried the long ball a number of times and they were certainly different.

"I know they will prepare more for the next game but we will do the same.”

Action from Zob Ahan and Pohang

It was West Asia who dominated the other two games as well, with Iranian side Zob Ahan defeating Pohang Steelers 2-1, although the Korean outfit scored a crucial away goal and are well and truly still in the tie.

In the final game, Al-Hilal from Saudi Arabia had a comfortable win over Al-Gharafa of Qatar.

The second legs will take place next Wednesday, but at the moment it looks like the trophy could be headed back to West Asia for the first time since 2005.

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