Ulsan Hyundai Tigers of South Korea's K-League defeated Saudi Arabian rival Al Hilal 1-0 Wednesday in the quarterfinal action of the ongoing continental club championship.
At Ulsan Munsu Stadium, about 410 kilometers south of Seoul, Brazilian forward Rafinha scored in the ninth minute and the victorious home side held on for dear life in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League action.
The win gave Ulsan an upper hand in the two-leg quarterfinal showdown. The second leg will be in Riyadh, home of Al Hilal, on Oct. 3. The aggregate score after the two games will determine the winner.
Ulsan wasted little time getting on the score sheet, as Rafinha capitalized on a defensive miscue by Al Hilal. The South Korean side kept pressing the rest of the first half. The best chance after the goal came in the 12th minute, when defender Kwak Tae-hwi's header off a corner was grabbed by Abdullah Al-Sudairy in the Saudi net.
In the 30th, Ulsan goalkeeper Kim Young-kwang made a huge save on a header by Yoo Byung-soo, South Korean forward on Al Hilal, following a corner.
Teams played a more lethargic second half, with Ulsan seemingly content to sit back and protect its slim lead. Al Hilal was the more aggressive side early in the second half, but forward Wesley had his mid-range strike denied by Kim in goal in the 51st and Yoo missed the net with a header in the 54th minute.
In the dying moments, Al Hilal missed a few chances to equalize. Wesley took a nifty pass from Mohammed Al Qarni and launched a shot that just missed the net in the 86th. Then in injury time, Kim stopped a shot by Abdulaziz Al Dawsari and then denied Salman Al-Faraja on the rebound. Moments later, the Ulsan netminder made another stop on Al Dawsari on a mid-range shot.
Ulsan is the only K-League team left standing at the Champions League. Four K-League teams had qualified, but two of the teams this year, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Pohang Steelers, were eliminated from the group stage. A third, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, lost to Uzbekistan club Bunyodkor 1-0 in the round of 16.
Ulsan topped Group F with four wins and two draws. It beat Kashiwa Reysol of Japan 3-2 to reach the quarters.
Al Hilal ended the opening stage as the top seed in Group D with three wins and three draws, and then pounded Baniyas of the United Arab Emirates 7-1 in the round of 16.
This is Ulsan's third appearance in the Champions League. It reached the semifinals in 2006 but was knocked out of the group phase in 2009.
The K-League has produced nine Asian club champions, dating back to the days of the Asian Champion Club Tournament in 1967, including two of the last three. That's more than any other league on the continent. (Yonhap News)