Jeonbuk beat Sydney to set up winner-takes-all final match
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors came from behind to beat Sydney FC 3-2 on Thursday, setting up a winner-takes-all final game against Yokohama F. Marinos in Group H of the AFC Champions on Sunday.
Jeonbuk fell behind just before the break at Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, conceding to Sydney’s Adam Le Fondre in the 40th minute.
Coming back after half time, the K League club were quick to redress the balance, with Han Kyo-won’s equalizer in the 49th minute followed by goals from Stanislav Iljutcenko and Gustavo in the 67th and 79th minutes.
Sydney got one back in extra time, but Jeonbuk’s steady dominance in the second half proved unbeatable and the Korean club took the full three points.
Speaking after the game, Jeonbuk head coach Kim Sang-sik acknowledged that his approach didn’t work in the first half and he had to rethink his strategy to turn the tide after the break.
"After having analysed Sydney, I decided to start with a back three but we found that it didn't work in the first half,” Kim said. "We were not able to penetrate the spaces as Sydney were able to easily counter us.
"Once we changed to a back four, we were able to gain more possession and were more of a threat offensively. I am glad that we managed to get the win we desired and I have to thank my players for the commitment and drive they showed."
The win puts Jeonbuk a point behind Yokohama ahead of the teams’ showdown on Sunday, when a place in the Round of 16 will be at stake.
But with both teams guaranteed to finish in the top two in Group H with two wins and a positive goal difference, a place in the next round is practically guaranteed.
Jeonbuk are not the only team in a strong position going into the final game of the group stage.
Daegu FC lead Group F with three wins a draw and a loss and a huge plus 13 goal difference that will protect them even if they fall into second place.
Ulsan Hyundai are in second place in Group I, but face a more difficult final match against group leaders Johor Darul Ta'zim.
K League 2 club Jeonnam Dragons, the reigning FA Cup champions, will play their final Group G game against group leaders BG Pathum, but the result is immaterial — Jeonnam have already been eliminated.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]