The AFC Champions League winners failed to capitalise on a blunder by Hiroshima defender Hiroki Mizumoto as the J-League winners came from claim fifth place in the Club World Cup.
Club World Cup: Ulsan Hyundai 2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3
J-League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima have defeated AFC Champions League winners Ulsan Hyundai 3-2 to seal fifth place at the Club World Cup in Japan.
The coaches of both teams had billed the contest as an ideal opportunity to showcase Asian football to the world, and neither disappointed in a lively encounter in which Hiroshima came from behind to win.
The South Korean side had the better of the first half, going close twice before taking the lead on 17 minutes due to a defensive blunder by Hiroshima defender Hiroki Mizumoto.
As goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa rushed off his line to collect a knocked-down pass, Mizumoto inexplicably sidefooted the ball past him into an empty net.
The blunder gave Ulsan confidence and the South Koreans streamed forward at every opportunity.
However, it was Hiroshima who scored the game's second goal when on 35 minutes Satoru Yamagishi pounced to poke the ball in from close range after goalkeeper Kim Young-Kwang had expertly saved a Hisato Sato header.
Ulsan centre-forward Kim Shin-Wook then rattled the crossbar shortly before half time as the South Koreans continued to have the better opportunities but Hiroshima hung on until the break.
Buoyed by still being on level terms, the Japanese champions started the second half the brighter.
They got their reward after 56 minutes when Sato, top scorer in the J-League last season, beat his marker to the ball and got the faintest of touches to direct it past goalkeeper Kim.
As Ulsan pressed forward looking for the equaliser they were left exposed at the back and with less than 20 minutes to go Sato tapped in when the ball ricocheted and fell kindly to him. It was his third goal of the tournament.
There was no way back at a largely empty 36,000-capacity Toyota Stadium for the recently-crowned AFC Champions League winners who scored a consolation deep into injury time through Lee Yong.
Ulsan finish sixth while part-timers Auckland City took home the wooden spoon after losing the opening game of the intercontinental championship.