x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Koreans book date in the UAE

East Asian dominance continues as Seongnam seal Club World Cup spot and probable game against capital side Al Wahda.

TOKYO // Seongnam Ilwha Chunma overpowered Zob Ahan 3-1 last night in the Asian Champions League final, becoming the second successive team from South Korea to win the trophy and represent the continent at the Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi next month.

It was a deserved win. Two-thirds of the way through an entertaining clash in the Japanese capital, Seongnam were cruising following a goal from Sasa Ognenovski after 25 minutes and a header from central-defensive partner Cho Byung-kuk seven minutes after the break.

However, Mohammadreza Khalatbari headed the Iranians back into the game midway through the second half to cause a few nerves among the Seongnam fans in Japan's National Stadium until a late Kim Cheol-ho goal gave the Korean club a second continental title.

"To score a goal in the final and win the game is unbelievable," said Ognenovski, Seongnam's Australian captain.

"When the ball came down to me, I just thought 'This is going in', and made sure it did. The rest of the team were unbelievable and have all played their part; Zob Ahan are a tough team."

Ognenovski has had a week to remember after being called up for the national team for the first time to face Egypt on Wednesday and faced a long trip to Cairo from Tokyo just hours after the match. "I don't have much time to celebrate," he conceded.

The Koreans looked comfortable with a 2-0 lead, and for good reason; Zob Ahan's route to the final had been built on defending leads rather than trying to come from behind.

They almost did. Khalatbari's goal made Seongnam look vulnerable, but the Koreans kept their nerve and produced the late third goal to seal the win. Seongnam could face Al Wahda of the Pro League on December 11 at the Club World Cup next month.

Dzenan Radoncic, a striker for the Korean club, is looking forward to the Abu Dhabi event, especially as he was suspended for last night's final.

"I told the players that I would buy them presents if they won the final as I am desperate to play at the Club World Cup," the Montenegrin said.

"It is when all the best teams from each continent get together and the chance to play Inter Milan [in a semi-final match] is fantastic. I played in the Champions League for Partizan Belgrade in 2003 and want a chance to see where I am at as a player now."

Zob Ahan were left to reflect on a good run to the final. "We just made too many mistakes and it cost us," said Mansour Ebrahimzadeh, the Zob Ahan coach. "But at least now everyone knows now who Zob Ahan are."

All of Asia now knows who Seongnam are, and the rest of the world will get a chance to become familiar with them in Abu Dhabi next month, too.