Korean teams advance to AFC Champions League quarters

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Korean teams advance to AFC Champions League quarters

Ulsan Hyundai players celebrate after beating Kawasaki Frontale 3-2 on penalties in the round of 16 of the 2021 AFC Champions League at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

Ulsan Hyundai players celebrate after beating Kawasaki Frontale 3-2 on penalties in the round of 16 of the 2021 AFC Champions League at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

 
Reigning AFC Champions League champions Ulsan secured their spot in the 2021 quarterfinals after defeating Kawasaki Frontale 3-2 on penalties in the round of 16 on Tuesday.
 
Ulsan faced a serious challenge in 2020 J League winners Kawasaki, so the 120-minute stalemate at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan didn't come as a huge surprise. There were opportunities during the game, with Ulsan coming incredibly close to scoring with a header off the post in the 119th minute, but in the end it came down to the penalty spot.
 
Lee Chung-yong was first up in the shootout, scoring a penalty that was quickly matched by Kawasaki's Kei Chinen. Won Du-jae and Tatsuya Hasegawa both missed their penalties, keeping the score tied at 1-1.
 
Potential disaster struck for Ulsan on the third penalty, when Lee Dong-jun missed and Daiyo Tono scored, putting the Japanese side up 2-1. Yun Il-lok leveled the score minutes later and Joao Schmidt missed, putting the score at 2-2 with one shot left before the sudden-death shootout began.
 
Akihiro Ienaga missed Kawasaki's fifth shot and, fittingly, it came down to 2020 Champions League MVP Yoon Bit-garam to score the winner, hammering the ball past Kawasaki's Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong to secure Ulsan's spot in the quarterfinals.
 
Ulsan entered the Champions League as defending champion, after beating Iranian side Persepolis FC 2-1 in the 2020 final on Dec. 20 last year. The Korean club started this year's tournament in Group F alongside Thai club BG Pathum United, Vietnam's Viettel and Kaya F.C.–Iloilo from the Philippines. Ulsan topped the group with six wins, conceding just one goal throughout the group stage.
 
Ulsan was one of four Korean clubs to earn a spot in the Champions League this year, alongside Daegu FC, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and the Pohang Steelers.
 
All four Korean teams made it to the round of 16, with Jeonbuk also topping its group while Daegu and Pohang finished second.
 
Daegu had a tough draw against Nagoya Grampus in the round of 16, losing 4-2 at Toyota Stadium in Toyota, Japan. 
 
Daegu drew first blood, with Cesinha scoring in the fourth minute, but Nagoya's Jakub Swierczok leveled the playing field just a few minutes later. Edgar added one more for Daegu to give the Korean club the 2-1 lead going into the half, but two more from Swierczok and a goal from Shinnosuke Nakatani gave the Japanese club an unassailable lead.
 
Daegu head home empty-handed, but still with reason to celebrate — this was the first time the club has reached the knockout stage at the continental tournament.
 
Jeonbuk and Pohang both played their round of 16 matches on Wednesday.
 
The Steelers beat Japanese side Cerezo Osaka 1-0 at Nagai Stadium in Osaka, Japan to earn a spot in the quarterfinals.
 
Jeonbuk were held to an unexpected 1-1 tie in 120 minutes by Champions League debutant Pathum.
 
As of press time, the two teams were yet to play a penalty shootout at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla.

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]
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