Al Ain: South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors broke Al Ain hearts while helping themselves to a second continental crown following a hard-fougth 1-1 draw against The Boss in the return leg final of the 2016 AFC Champions League here late on Saturday.
Having won the home leg 2-1 a week back, this was the second title for the Korean team who prevailed on aggregate 3-2 scoreline. Founded 22 years back in 1994 as the Chonbuk Dinos, the Korean side won their first AFC Champions League title in 2006 becoming the first club from East Asia to clinch the tournament since the league was launched in its current format in 2003.
Saturday’s triumph also gave the Koreans the rare distinction of being the only team in the world at that time to have become continental champions without ever having won a domestic crown as their first K-League honour came three years later in 2009.
The houseful stadium went silent on the half hour mark when substitute Han Kyo Won prodded home the opener. But the lead lasted less than four minutes as Al Ain’s Korean recruit Lee Myung-Joo banged home the equalizer in the 34th minute.
Knowing fully well that a 1-1 result would deny them the title, the home went all out for a second goal and came close on several occasions. The first was in the 37th minute when a rasping shot from Brazilian Dyanfres Douglas was parried away by Kwoun Suntae, and a minute later, Lee’s weak attempt was easily picked up by the Jeonbuk goalkeeper.
The best opportunity for the home team was in the 42nd minute after Danilo Asprilla was brought down at the edge of the area by Kim Hyungil. But Douglas who was entrusted with the spot kick blasted over and hand the visitors a lifeline.
The second half was more open but with coach Zlatko Dalic out after a red card following an altercation with one of the South Korean officials towards the end of the first half, the home team found the going tough and in disarray. They did create a few chances, but not as many as would have been expected of a side in desperate search of a goal that would keep them alive in the final.
Their best opportunities, perhaps, were in the 75th and 81st minute, but on both occaisons it was goalkeeper Suntae coming to their rescue. On the first instance, Suntae blocked a scorching drive from Douglas and then six minutes later, he denied substitute Ebrahim Diaky from close range.
After that it was just a matter of playing out the minutes and the Jeonbuk lads managed to weather the taunts from the 23,239 spectators that had assembled to watch the fight for supremacy among Asian clubs.
Al Ain x Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-1 (Jeonbuk win 3-2 on aggregate)