Ulsan only K-League club to move on in AFC CL

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Ulsan only K-League club to move on in AFC CL

Ulsan Hyundai FC will be the only club representing Korea in the remainder of the Asian Football Confederation Champions League as the tournaments
enters the quarterfinal stage.

Last year’s runners-up in the KLeague defeated defending J-League champions Kashiwa Reysol 3-2 at Munsu Stadium in Ulsan on Wednesday to advance.

The 196-centimeter-tall (6 foot, 5 inches) striker Kim Shin-wook struck first in a wild second half that saw all five of the game’s goals.

Brazilian midfielder Leandro Domingues equalized for the Japanese side, but just four minutes later a goal by Naoya Kondo put Ulsan ahead again.

Lee Keun-ho scored the team’s third goal with his right foot in the 88th before Kashiwa snuck in its last punch from Junya Tanaka in injurytime.

Ulsan’s victory put the club in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2006. Over the past three years at least two K-League teams have made it to the quarterfinals (two in 2009, four in 2010 and three in 2011), but Ulsan is now the only hope for the K-League.

A Korean-based club has also reached the championship match for three straight years.

“With us advancing to the quarterfinals, I feel relieved that we have kept the pride of Korean football,” Ulsan coach Kim Ho-kon said after the match. “But leagues like China and Thailand are getting better and better.”

The 2010 champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma lost 1-0 to Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor on Tuesday’s round of 16 match, while last year’s runners-up and 2006 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and the 2009 champions Pohang Steelers failed to advance from the group stage.

Pundits say that Korean teams struggled in the ACL this year after finding it difficult to cope with their domestic league schedules and injured players.

The K-League teams in the ACL played an average of seven to eight games per month. With little time to rest, players also had to deal with more games as the K-League adopted its split system this year, which introduced relegation.

Bunyodkor, Australia’s Adelaide United, and China’s Guangzhou Evergrande also advanced to the quarterfinals.

Last week, three Saudi teams — Al Ittihad, Al Hilal and Al Ahli — along with Sepahan of Iran advanced.

The draw for the quarterfinals is scheduled for June 14. The first leg will be held on Sept. 19, with the second leg set for Oct. 2 and 3

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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