Teams falter in quest for ACL title for Korea

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Teams falter in quest for ACL title for Korea

Korean football clubs are struggling in the early phase of the Asian championships, raising concerns about the country’s bid for a fourth title in five years.

The four K-League clubs participating were all held to draws in the second round of the first group competition of the 2013 Asian Football Confederation Champions League held on Tuesday and Wednesday. With the first round matches a week earlier included, they have but a single victory from eight matches between them.

Only FC Seoul, which had the sole victory for the country, is leading its group. The other three are sitting in second or third place of three other four-team groups. Each of the 32 competitors has six games in the first group competition, with a home and an away stretch against each of the other three teams in their group. The two top teams from each of the eight groups will advance to the Round of 16.

On Wednesday, the Pohang Steelers, winners of the 2012 K-League FA Cup, drew 2-2 with Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan in Tashkent. It was their second straight draw after a scoreless tie home match against Beijing Guoan of China. The Steelers are in third in Group G, trailing both Bunyodkor and Guoan by two points.

The Suwon Bluewings had a scoreless tie with Asian debutant Guizhou Renhe of China on Wednesday. In Group H, Suwon is four points behind Kashiwa Reysol, who had a second straight victory on Wednesday, beating the Central Coast Mariners of Australia 3-1. Suwon drew with the Australian team on Feb. 27 and is only one point ahead of Guizhou Renhe.

Pohang will have to reduce the gap with the Reysol when it visits the J-League club Sanfrecce Hiroshima on April 2.

A day earlier, the Jeonbuk Motors, the 2011 Asian runner-up, drew 1-1 with the visiting Guangzhou Evergrande of China, failing to extract revenge for a 5-1 loss at home in the first group stage of the 2012 ACL.

The Motors are third in Group F, trailing Guangzhou by two points and the Urawa Red Diamonds, who beat Muangthong United 401 on Tuesday, by one. The Motors will play the Red Diamonds in Japan on April 3.

“It’s still a one point difference. We will certainly secure three points against Urawa,” Jeonbuk’s acting coach, Fabio, told reporters through an interpreter after the match.

FC Seoul, the defending K-League champions, also settled for a point on Tuesday in a scoreless draw with Buriram United of Thailand.

FC Seoul, which beat Jiangsu Sainty 5-1 in the first round, is still two points clear of the runners-up in Group E.

“A nil-nil score can happen anytime in football,” FC Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo said. “We don’t have any regrets about it.” FC Seoul will play a third round match against Vegalta Sendai of Japan in China on April 2.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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