Published : 2013-09-24 19:54
Updated : 2013-09-24 19:54
FC Seoul will try to become the fifth straight South Korean soccer club to reach the final of the AFC Champions League, as it opens the two-leg semifinals against Esteghlal of Iran at home this week.
FC Seoul will host the Iranian club at Seoul World Cup Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Wednesday. The second leg will be held on Oct. 2 at Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
The aggregate score after the two legs will determine who will reach the final at the top Asian club football competition. The away goals rule will be in effect, giving more weight to goals scored at an away game if the teams are tied in the aggregate score after their two matches.
The K League Classic in South Korea has produced three of the past four champions in the AFC Champions League, with Pohang Steelers, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and Ulsan Hyundai Tigers going all the way in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors ended up as the runner-up in 2011.
In the quarterfinals that wrapped up last week, FC Seoul edged out Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia for the aggregate score of 2-1. After a 1-1 draw in Saudi Arabia in August, FC Seoul defeated Al Ahli, the AFC runner-up last year, 1-0 at home last Wednesday.
Esteghlal knocked out Buriram United of Thailand in the quarters. The Iranian club prevailed 1-0 at home last month and took the second leg 2-1 in Thailand for the 3-1 aggregate win.
FC Seoul has been on a roll in the domestic K League Classic, having gone undefeated in 12 consecutive matches. The team is now in fourth place among 14 teams with 50 points, three behind the first-place Pohang Steelers with one game in hand.
FC Seoul’s offense is firing on all cylinders. Striker Dejan Damjanovic, the reigning league MVP and scoring champion, scored the winner in the second leg of the quarters against Al Ahli last week. Midfielders Ha Dae-sung, Yun Il-lok and Go Yo-han have been playing with more oomph since dressing up for the national team in summer.
On defense, Adilson dos Santos, Kim Jin-kyu and Cha Du-ri have backed goalkeeper Kim Yong-dae in building FC Seoul into one of the stingier teams in the domestic league. The team has yielded seven goals in 10 matches in the AFC play this year, while scoring 16 times.
At the pre-match press conference held Tuesday, Choi Yong-soo, FC Seoul’s head coach, said his team will be the aggressor.
“We have to keep looking to score goal after goal,” he said. “We will stick to our game plan and play aggressive football at home.”
Choi said he fully expects his opponents to sit back and try to shut down FC Seoul, saying Esteghlal has mostly employed such defensive tactics in recent games. “Esteghlal features a lot of Iranian national team members but that doesn’t worry us,” Choi said. “We have 14 current or former national team stars.” (Yonhap News)