Short-handed Seongnam side to play for AFC titleSeongnam Ilhwa Chunma earned a spot in the AFC Champions League title game with a 1-0 win over Al-Shabab on Wednesday night in Seongnam, Gyeonggi. The Korean side will now face Zob Ahan of Iran in a one-leg final in Tokyo, Japan on Nov. 13.
Coming off a 4-3 loss in the first leg, Seongnam put itself in a must-win situation, while Al-Shabab needed merely a tie to move on. The two sides played to a 4-4 draw on aggregate score but the Koreans advanced on the away-goals rule.
“There were many questions prior to the start of the tourney, whether we would even make it past the qualifying rounds, but I confidently told them we were capable,” said Seongnam Ilhwa manager Shin Tae-yong at a post-match press conference. “To be honest, I had a lot of concerns coming into the game, but the players played brilliantly.”
Seongnam started the match with Dzenan Radoncic, Mauricio Molina and Cho Dong-geon up front in a 4-3-3 formation. They came up short until Cho’s left-footed volley hit the mark in the 31st minute.
“We failed to find a way to score today,” said Al-Shabab manager Jorge Fossati. “We made several mistakes in the first half and it continued into the second half. But that’s football. I’m not hugely disappointed with the results since our players gave it their all.”
Seongnam Ilhwa is the most successful club in K-League history with seven K-League titles, but has come up short in Champions League competitions. Seongnam won the Asian Club Championship in 1996, but has not won the tourney since the merger of the Asian Club Championship, Asian Cup Winners Cup and Asian Super Cup into the AFC Champions League in 2002-03. Seongnam finished second in 2004 and reached the semifinals in 2007.
If Shin manages to lead his team to a win against Zob Ahan in the final, he will become the first person to win Asia’s top tourney as both a player and manager.
Seongnam will face the difficult task of competing in the final without three of its starters.
Radoncic and Jeon Kwang-jin, who collected two yellows in previous matches, will be barred from the final. Hong Chul and Jang Seok-won, a Seongnam reserve player, have been selected to the Asian Games U-23 squad and will also miss the game.
By Jason Kim [email@example.com]
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