Korean clubs begin AFC play with mixed results

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Korean clubs begin AFC play with mixed results

Four teams from Korea’s K-League got off to mixed starts at the ongoing Asian Football Confederation Champions League this week.

Jeju United, making its debut at the continent’s top club competition, opened its Group E campaign with a 1-0 loss to Tianjin Teda of China at home on Tuesday. The following day, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, the 2006 Champions League winner, edged China’s Shandong Luneng FC, 1-0, in Group G play.

In Group H, the Suwon Samsung Bluewings played to a scoreless draw against Sydney FC in Australia, while FC Seoul, the defending K-League champion, defeated Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates, 1-0, in Group F.

Hwangbo Kwan, the new FC Seoul coach, was victorious in his first official game with the team. He told reporters in the UAE that his club will only get better from here.

“We’re confident that we can win the next round,” Hwangbo said at a press conference. “Every club is strong, but if we play to our full potential, there’s no need to fear anyone.”

Dejan Damjanovic, the team’s top scorer last season, had the winner, and goalkeeper Kim Yong-dae made a crucial save on Al Ain’s penalty kick midway through the second half.

Though Suwon eked out a draw, it was a disappointing result considering Sydney played one man short for more than half of the match. Captain Terry McFlynn was sent off after stomping on Suwon’s Lee Sang-ho, but the Bluewings failed to capitalize on the advantage.

“It was our first game after offseason training and players were not on the same page,” Suwon coach Yoon Sung-hyo told reporters in Sydney. “I was worried about our lack of cohesion, and it haunted us today.”

Jeju is in the Champions League for the first time by virtue of finishing second in the K-League last year. But the team has lost some key players, namely national team midfielder Koo Ja-cheol. The loss was tough for Jeju because it hadn’t fallen in 19 consecutive home games. But coach Park Kyung-hoon said it’s too early to panic.

“We can’t worry about Koo’s absence; he’s already gone and we can fill that void with training,” Park said. “We will try to get wins on the road.”

The four K-League teams will be back in AFC action on March 15 and 16.

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