Seoul FC to face Iran’s Esteghlal

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Seoul FC to face Iran’s Esteghlal

FC Seoul will seek to avenge Korea’s two losses to Iran in the last year when it hosts Iran’s Estheghlal tomorrow.

Dejan Damjanovic scored in the 89th minute, lifting Seoul 1-0 over Al-Ahli of Saudi Arabia 1-0 at home on Thursday to set up the semifinal bout with the Iranian club at the 2013 Asian Football Confederation Champions League. Seoul got past the quarterfinals 2-1 on aggregate after it drew Al-Ahli 1-1 in the away leg on Aug. 22.

It will be the first-ever semifinal appearance for Seoul - and its predecessor Anyang LG Cheetahs - since the Asian championship was rebranded as the ACL in 2003. Seoul reached as far as the quarterfinals in the ACL in 2009 and 2011.

Seoul will seek to be a Korean club to get to the ACL final for a fifth successive year.

But, Korea’s pride as a leading Asian national football team is also at stake at the semifinals with Estheghlal. The second leg will be held at Azadi Stadium on Oct. 2.

Korea lost both the final home and away qualifying matches to Iran before it edged Uzbekistan to clinch a berth to 2014 World Cup.

The two countries were supposed to have a “return match” early this month as Iran agreed to play Korea in a friendly match on Sept. 6, but Iran cancelled it.

Esteghlal has about a half dozen players, who are on active duty with Iran’s national team, such as Javad Nekounam and Andranik Teymourian. Nekounam scored the winner in a 1-0 victory over the Choi Kang-hee squad in a qualifying match for Brazil World Cup in Tehran in October. Korea suffered another 1-0 loss to Iran in June, in which Reza Ghoochannejhad scored the only goal in the 60th minute. Iran advanced as the winners of Group A, and Korea runner-up only thanks to goal difference over Uzbekistan.

BY MOON GWANG-LIP [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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