AFC: Seongnam and Zob Ahan reach CL final; AFC Cup Review (+video)
Both of the two major Asian club tournaments have decided their finalists over the last couple of nights. The AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup witnessed two semi-finals of major tension and drama with two of the four fixtures seeing the sides separated by just one goal over the two legs whilst another was decided by away goals. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest from an action-packed set of final four match-ups.
The AFC Champions League could see a South Korean champion for the second successive season following Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma’s away goals victory over Saudi Arabia’s Al-Shabab. The Saudis held a 4-3 advantage from a thrilling first leg but would have to face a tough challenge away from home against a team who have lost only four matches in front of their own fans in this calendar year. In the second leg Cho Dong-Geon’s lone strike on the half hour mark would prove the difference between the two sides as Seongnam secured a 4-4 aggregate draw and subsequently went through thanks to the three goals they scored in the Saudi capital Riyadh a fortnight earlier.
WATCH SEONGNAM v AL-SHABAB HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The team who stand between further Korean success in the competition are Zob Ahan FC. The Iranian team have reached their maiden AFC Champions League final having won both legs of their semi-final against Saudi Arabians Al-Hilal by a 1-0 scoreline. Brazilian Igor Castro scored the only goal of the second leg ten minutes into the second half which didn’t leave Al-Hilal much time to score the three goals they needed if they were to progress from the competition. Belgian coach Eric Gerets, hopeful of reaching the final in his first season in charge of the Saudi club, had to concede that the better team won and Zob Ahan can now look forward to taking the field at the National Stadium, Tokyo, against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma on November 13th.
WATCH AL-HILAL v ZOB AHAN 2ND LEG WINNING GOAL HERE:
The AFC Cup semi-finals also saw some fascinating action with both ties being decided by the odd goal. The highest scoring semi-final was between Al-Riffa (Bahrain) and Al-Qadsia (Kuwait) with the former 2-0 ahead over the latter going into the second leg played in the Kuwaiti city of Hawally. Al-Qadsia gave their fans plenty to cheer after going four goals up in the second leg thanks to goals from Abdulaziz al-Mesham, Hamad al-Enezi, Bader al-Motawaa and Omar Bu-Hamad before Al-Riffa’s Hamad Rakea scored a very late consolation goal to make it a nervous finish for the home side. There wasn’t much time left after the visitors’ goal however and Al-Qadsia could look forward to their first ever AFC Cup final winning 4-3 on aggregate.
Another first time finalist is Al-Ittihad, the Syrian team who overturned a one goal deficit from the first leg and progressed with a 2-0 victory in the return leg over Thailand’s Muangthong United. Mohamed al-Hasan scored both goals for Al-Ittihad in the first half as United blew their chance to become the first club from their country to reach the final of this particular competition. Both of the finalists have already met each other twice in the group phase of this year’s competition with Al-Qadsia having the better record over their opponents having won one game and drawn the other one. Al-Qadsia will also host the final to be played on November 6th.
WATCH AL-ITTIHAD v MUANGTHONG UNITED 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE: