AFC: Steelers crash out of Champions League; AFC Review (+video)
Defending champions Pohang Steelers have been knocked out of the AFC Champions League by Iranian side Zob Ahan after they could only draw their home second leg 1-1 after going down to a 2-1 defeat seven days ago, thus losing 3-2 on aggregate. This and all the remaining games in this competiton and the AFC Cup are reviewed here on Stoppage Time – International Football Blog.
It’s already been a difficult season for Pohang Steelers and today’s events only rubbed salt further into the wounds. Tenth in the Korean League table and with virtually no chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, the Steelers had to successfully defend the trophy they won in 2009 if they were to have another crack of Asia’s premier club competition in 2011. Not only that but Pohang hadn’t won in their last four matches in all competitions so the odds seemed against them. But there was an early breakthrough for the Koreans after just ten minutes when Jae-Sung Kim put the Steelers into an early lead. Had the game stayed that way then Pohang would’ve gone through on the away goals rule but they were to suffer heartbreak with just ten minutes remaining. Mohammad Reza Khalatbari’s 80th minute equalizer gave the Iranians the advantage and Pohang needed a goal to take the game into extra-time. Zob Ahan felt the pressure as they tried to hang on and they had Mahdi Rajabzadeh sent off in the 86th minute to add to the drama. However there was to be no fairytale end for Pohang Steelers as time ran out and the champions had been dumped out of the tournament in front of their home supporters.
SEE POHANG STEELERS v ZOB AHAN 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
In the other AFC Champions League games the all-Korean quarter-final saw Suwon Bluewings bravely bow out at home to compatriots Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. Seongnam won the first leg 4-1 and they were confident of defending the lead going into the return fixture. However Suwon scored twice before the hour mark to make it a very nervy game for Seongnam, Ki Hun Yeom opening the scoring on 32 minutes and Sang-Ho Lee doubling the second leg lead on 59 minutes to set up a grand finale. However Suwon just couldn’t take the fight to Seongnam who were able to cling on to their 4-3 aggregate lead for the rest of the game and, thus, go through to the final four.
After taking half of the quarter-final spots the South Korean quartet has been reduced to just one representative in the final four as Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors also went out despite winning their second leg match against Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab by a goal to nil courtesy of Ji Woong-Kim’s 23rd minute effort. The 2-0 defeat that Jeonbuk suffered on the Arabian peninsula has come back to hurt them and now the Saudis will take on Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the semi-finals.
The most sensational finish to a game in this round came in Qatar as Al Gharafa were able to pull back a three goal deficit from their first leg meeting with Saudi Arabians Al Hilal and take the game into extra-time. Al Gharafa were even able to take the lead for the first time in the tie after 102 minutes when Younes Mahmoud scored his second of the game to make it 4-3 on aggregate. From that point onwards the Qatari side tried to hold on to what they had but they were made to pay as Al Hilal scored two goals in the last three minutes of second half extra-time to provide a cruel twist to the game. Yasser Al Qahtani and Eysa Al Mehyani doing the damage late on to seal an amazing 5-4 aggregate win for the Riyadh-based side who now face Zob Ahan in the semi-finals.
AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2010 SEMI-FINAL DRAW
Al Shabab v Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma
Zob Ahan v Al Hilal
Matches to be played October 6th and 20th
The AFC Cup quarter-final second legs have also taken place in the last couple of days in what has been an exciting last eight stage of the competition. It was a mixed bag of results for teams from Thailand as the joy of progression for Muangthong United was countered by disappointment for Thai Port FC. Muangthong United overturned a 1-0 first leg deficit and came through to win the home leg 2-0 against Kuwaiti side Al Karamah to go through 2-1 on aggregate. Datsakorn Thonglao’s 28th minute strike was complimented ten minutes later by Dagno Siaka’s 38th minute penalty kick which gave the overall lead to Muangthong United who never relinquished it. Thai Port, on the other hand, began the day on level terms against Kuwaiti champions Al Qadsia but were to succumb to a 3-0 defeat in Kuwait City thanks to strikes from Hamad Al Enezi, Bader Al Mutwa and Abdulaziz Mashaan. Bahrain’s Al Riffa were involved in an eight goal battle with Vietnamese Da Nang for whom Sebastian Merlo hit a hat-trick in vain as his side went down to a 5-3 home defeat and 8-3 aggregate reverse. The final game of the quarter-finals saw Ittihad defeat Kazma by a solitary goal to nil in order to progress to the semi-finals. Ittihad won the first leg by three goals to two and it was Majed Humssi’s penalty goal six minutes before half-time that out them through.
AFC CUP 2010 SEMI-FINAL DRAW
Muangthong United v Al-Ittihad
Al-Riffa v Al-Qadsia
Matches to be played October 5th and 19th