Jeju defeats Urawa 2-0 to open round of 16 at AFC
Marcelo Toscano opened the scoring in the seventh minute, and substitute Jin Seong-uk rounded out the scoring in the dying moments of the opening match in the round of 16 showdown at Jeju Stadium on the southern resort island.
The second leg of their showdown will be next Wednesday at Saitama Stadium 2002 in Saitama, Japan. The aggregate score after the two matches will determine who’ll advance to the quarterfinals, and the away goals rule will be in play.
This was the first meeting ever between the two clubs at the AFC Champions League. Jeju are playing in just their second ACL and this is their first appearance in the knockout stage.
Jeju had previously struggled at home in the continental play, with just one win in their last four matches.
Jeju United were forced to play at Jeju Stadium, not their usual home of Jeju World Cup Stadium, because of scheduling conflicts with the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The latter venue was scheduled to host two Group C matches Wednesday, with kickoff times at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Though AFC matches are generally held in evening hours, the one between Jeju and Urawa began at 3 p.m. because Jeju Stadium has no light towers.
Jeju entered Wednesday’s action as the first-place club in the domestic K League Classic. They’ve compiled 24 points, one more than Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, with seven wins, two draws and three losses. Jeju also lead the competition with 24 goals.
And the offense went to right to work, as Toscano put Jeju on the board in just the seventh minute, by heading in a cross from Hwang Il-su
Hwang, selected to the South Korean national team for the first time on Monday, played with an extra bounce in his steps, with national team coach Uli Stielike watching from the stands.
Hwang fired a shot that missed left in the 10th minute. Then in the 14th, he dribbled in alone on goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa but shot right at the netminder.
Urawa tried to answer in the 21st, but Ryota Moriwaki’s shot that deflected off a Jeju defender was turned aside by goalkeeper Kim Ho-jun.
The clubs then traded a few chances. Magno Cruz for Jeju hit the left side of the net on a three-on-one fast break in the 26th. Cruz had another breakaway opportunity five minutes later, set up by Toscano, but this time missed the target to the right.
At the other end, Zlatan Ljubijankic had his header saved by Kim in the 23rd. The Jeju custodian stood tall again in the 34th, denying Ljubijankic from point-blank range.
Jeju nearly doubled the lead two minutes into the second half, with Lee Chang-min launching a cannon from outside the box that was punched out by Nishikawa.
Then defender Kweon Han-jin kept Jeju in front with a desperation goal line clearance in the 53rd. Yuki Muto put his head on a Shinzo Koroki feed, and Kim Ho-jun missed the ball when he came out of his position to meet it. The ball headed toward the gaping net before Kweon jumped in and kicked it out of harm’s way at the last second.
Urawa kept Jeju on their heels most of the second half, with Ljubijankic heading one wide of target in the 69th, and Yosuke Kashiwagi getting a wide-open shot from the top of the box blocked by sliding Kwon Soon-hyung.
Kim Ho-jun rose to the occasion in the final stretch. He stoned Ljubijankic on a header in the 85th, and got a piece of a shot by Tadanari Lee on a fast break two minutes later, barely keeping it out of the net.
Kim’s teammates finally gave him some breathing room in added time. After the defense blocked a shot attempt, Jin Seong-uk got on a fast break and banged one in off the left post to cap off the victory.
Jeju are the only K League Classic club left in this year’s AFC Champions League. FC Seoul, Ulsan Hyundai and Suwon Samsung Bluewings were all sent packing in the group stage.