Ulsan eyes AFC semis after win vs. Al Hilal

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Ulsan eyes AFC semis after win vs. Al Hilal

After a critical win at home against Saudi club Al Hilal Wednesday night, Ulsan Tigers coach Kim Ho-gon said that the football club will not take the foot off the pedal in its AFC Champions League quest, vowing to play for a win, not a draw, in the away leg next month.

“We will forget the victory in the first leg and will mount an aggressive attack to win the second leg as well,” Kim told reporters after the 1-0 win on Brazilian forward Rafinha’s goal.

The second-leg match will be held on Oct. 3 at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh.

“It should be active and aggressive play,” Kim said. “We got a good result because we came out aggressively.”

The Tigers, the only K-League club left in the competition, are seeking to bring home the first title won by a Korean club since the Seongnam Chunma in 2010. The Jeonbuk Motors lost to Qatari club Al-Sadd on penalties in the final last year.

If the Tigers advance to the semifinals, they will face the winner of another quarterfinal duel between Adelaide United of Australia and Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan, who drew 2-2 in their first-leg match held in Australia on Wednesday.

Ulsan, currently in third place in the K-League, is 11 points behind the league-leading FC Seoul. While it’s still in the race for the domestic title, the coach hinted that the club will focus on winning its maiden Asian title.

“It has been such a long time since I went to the Middle East to lead a team as a manger,” he said. “An away match in the Middle East is said to be difficult, but we will put all we’ve got into the AFC Champions League. We will prepare as much as we can.”

Luckily for the Tigers, the Champions League schedule and the K-League schedule do not clash significantly. The semifinal match of the AFC Champions League will be held on Oct. 24 and the final on Nov. 9 or 10.

Ulsan’s final match of the K-League season is on Dec. 2. Under a newly introduced split system, the K-League will decide this year’s winner only through the aggregate records from the first-half and second-half matches, abandoning the playoffs. The Tigers are three points ahead of the fourth-place Suwon Bluewings.

In the first-leg match held at Ulsan Munsu Stadium, Rafinha, who was brought in July from J-League side Gamba Osaka, pressed the Saudi club from early on as the sole striker for Ulsan and finished in the 10th minute from midfielder Lee Keun-ho’s cross.

By Moon Gwang-lip, Han Yong-sup [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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