x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Steelers' crushing win robs Scolari of title hope

The former Chelsea manager's fancied Bunyodkor are beaten in last eight by inspired Koreans.


It may not have been the result the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) were hoping for but there was no denying that the quarter-final clash between Pohang Steelers and Bunyodkor was a great advertisement for Asian football. The story of the 2002 World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari leading Bunyodkor to a first Asian title and then representing the continent at Fifa's Club World Cup in December was one that would have made headlines around the world.

After the Central Asian giants won the first leg 3-1 win at home against their South Korean opposition last week, it looked as if the former Chelsea manager was about to move a step closer to that dream. It is not to be as Pohang came back to win the second leg in South Korea 4-1 after extra time on a thrilling evening at the Steelyard Stadium. "We played the kind of football we wanted to play. It was a great all-round performance," said Pohang's coach Sergio Farias, who won the battle of the Brazilian coaches.

"We wanted to score in the first half and while we didn't manage to do that, we made up for it in the second." That they did. The Steelers started brightly but were frustrated at the break as the Central Asians looked solid at the back. Within a minute of the break, however, substitute Kim jae-sung gave the hosts a lifeline and two goals in quick succession from the Brazilian striker Denilson put Pohang 3-0 ahead on the night and 4-3 on aggregate.

After 75 minutes of attacking, Pohang began to fall back and in the last minute of normal time, Bunyodkor substitute Victor Karpenko fired home a low shot from the edge of the box to silence the Steelyard and take the game into extra time. The Koreans recovered quickly and resumed their attacking. They were rewarded after 112 minutes when Macedonian marksman Stevica Ristic headed past Ignatiy Nesterov for what proved to be the winner.

South Koreans fans were hungry for all an K-League semi-final but Qatar's Umm Salal threw a spanner in the works by defeating FC Seoul 4-3 on aggregate. In the all-Japanese semi-final, Nagoya Grampus Eight came back from a 2-1 defeat at Kawasaki Frontale a week previously to win the second leg 3-1. Josh Kennedy grabbed the deciding goal two minutes from the end to send the home fans wild.