Ulsan to host ACL Final

Ulsan to host ACL Final

Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai will entertain Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli in next week’s AFC Champions League final after the unbeaten K-League side recorded a 2-0 win over Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor on Wednesday, while Karel Jarolim’s Jeddah-based side handed former champions Al Ittihad a 2-0 defeat to progress.

Brazilian striker Rafinha helped Ulsan qualify for the ACL final

With a healthy advantage from last week’s first leg in Tashkent, Ulsan survived heavy Bunyodkor pressure the first half at Ulsan Munsu Stadium thanks largely to the efforts of goalkeeper KimYoung-kwang who twice denied visiting striker Shavkat Salomov inside the opening 20 minutes.

Kim Shin-wook’s close range finish eight minutes after half-time then handed Ulsan the psychological advantage, and with Bunyodkor still needing to score three goals to keep their chances alive, Lee Keun-ho’s spectacular strike with 16 minutes remaining sealed unbeaten Ulsan’s eighth consecutive win in the competition.

“I think we performed well in a very important match,” said Kim Ho-gon.

“I stressed before the game that even though we had won the away match, the players should not be careless and the players had the determination to qualify for the final.

“We expected Bunyodkor would play offensively and we tried to counter that with more offensive tactics.”

Al Ahli, meanwhile, bounced back from a 1-0 loss in the first leg against two-time winners and cross-Jeddah rivals Al Ittihad to reach their first-ever AFC Champions League final thanks to goals late in each half from Moataz Al Muta and Victor Simoes.

Al Muta gave Al Ahli the lead on the night – and levelled the aggregate scores – with a header in the 44th minute before Simoes struck six minutes from time with a well-taken left foot shot just as the game looked to be headed towards extra time.

“We had good chances in the first half of the game but we failed to score and we eventually took the lead by the end of the first half,” said former Slavia Prague coach Jarolim, who steered Al Ahli to second place in the Saudi Premier League last season.

“We managed not to lose the ball in the second period and we forced Al Ittihad to move without the ball and this affected them physically. Of course we tried to create some more chances but we missed the last touch before Victor managed to score.”

The final will be held at Ulsan Munsu Stadium on November 10 and will be the third meeting between clubs from Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia at that stage of the competition since the creation of the AFC Champions League in 2002.

Al Ittihad won their first AFC Champions League crown in 2004 by defeating Seongnam Ilhwa 6-3 on aggregate over two legs while Pohang Steelers claimed the title in 2009 by defeating Al Ittihad 2-1 at Japan’s National Stadium in Tokyo.

World Sport Group

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