Al Ain: The Jeonbuk Hyundai coach was left elated at being able to erase the painful loss of 2011 following his team’s triumph at the 2016 AFC Champions League final against Al Ain at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday.
Choi Kang-hee saw his side hold home favourites Al Ain to a 1-1 draw to add on to a 2-1 win at home a week earlier and run away 3-2 aggregate winners in the 2016 edition of the continental competition. Choi had been in charge of Jeonbuk when they won their first AFC Champions League in 2006 while becoming the first club from East Asia to clinch the tournament since the league was launched in its current format in 2003.
In 2011, Choi was at the helm for his second AFC Champions League final when Jeonbuk fell to Qatar’s Al Sadd in the shoot-out. He rejoined the club after helping the Korean Republic secure a berth for the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil. “This is our first title since 2006 and I am so happy. When we lost in 2011, I saw our fans and supporters so disheartened. So winning this title is an unforgettable dream for all of us,” Choi told media at the post-match conference.
“Since coming back to Jeonbuk from the national team in 2014, we have been building this squad into a team that was capable of winning the AFC Champions League. And finally, it has happened today and I want to thank the fans. We owe this to them. This win will erase all memories of that  loss,” he added.
Going in with a 2-1 advantage following their home win a week earlier, the Koreans scored on the half-hour mark when early substitute Han Kyo-won prodded home Lee Jae-sung’s corner. Al Ain took four minutes to draw level when their Korean recruit Lee Myung-Joo placed home the equaliser.
However, that was the only goal the home team could deliver after missing at least four clear earlier chances on goal. Al Ain despaired further after Brazilian Dyanfres Douglas missed from the spot a few minutes before half-time, and then coach Zlatko Dalic was given the marching orders for a touchline skirmish with one of the Korean trainers.
“There were two changing moments in the match. Our first goal gave us an advantage and then after Al Ain missed the penalty it was my duty to give my players a positive thinking and a better frame of mind to deal with anything during the second half,” Choi said.
“We were motivated even though Al Ain played well. Our players worked together as a team. This is what we had been planning for since January,” he added.