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(LEAD) Ulsan blank Beijing to reach AFC Champions League semifinals

All News 22:49 December 10, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS comments in paras 16-19)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai FC have reached the semifinals of Asia's top club football tournament.

Forward Junior Negrao netted two goals in the first half, as Ulsan defeated Beijing Guoan 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League in Qatar on Thursday.

The Brazilian striker converted a penalty in the 21st minute and then scored with a thunderous midrange strike in the 42nd minute at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, just south of Doha.

Ulsan, the K League 1 runners-up this year, are trying to win their second AFC Champions League title, and first since 2012. They set the AFC Champions League record by scoring at least two goals in their seventh straight match.

In this EPA photo, Junior Negrao of Ulsan Hyundai FC celebrates after converting a penalty against Beijing Guoan during the teams' quarterfinals match at the Asian Football Confederation Champions League at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, on Dec. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

Another K League side, Suwon Samsung Bluewings, will play in the quarterfinals later Thursday at the same venue, against Vissel Kobe.

Prior to Thursday, Beijing had given up only four goals in seven matches. Ulsan became the first team to score more than one goal against Beijing at this year's tournament.

Ulsan opened the scoring with the benefit of the video assistant referee (VAR) system, which is in play from the quarterfinals and on.

In the 16th minute, Junior Negrao's volley inside the box went off the right hand of Beijing defender Kim Min-jae. When no violation was immediately called, the VAR alerted the on-field referee, Mohammed Abdulla Hassan, to review the play for a possible handball. Hassan checked his monitor and awarded Ulsan the penalty, while Kim, the Korean-born defender, was shown the yellow card.

In this Reuters photo, Junior Negrao of Ulsan Hyundai FC (L) celebrates his second goal against Beijing Guoan with teammate Lee Chung-yong during the teams' quarterfinals match at the Asian Football Confederation Champions League at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, on Dec. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

Junior took the spot kick himself and beat goalkeeper Hou Sen to the bottom right corner.

Renato Augusto tried to level the score for Beijing with chances in the 25th and then 32nd minutes, but Ulsan ended up getting the next goal, courtesy of Junior in the 42nd minute.

This time, Junior needed no replay help, as he fired a shot from outside the box and sent it past the diving Hou.

Junior's hat trick bid was foiled in the 59th minute, when his header was stopped by Hou on the short side.

Beijing kept pushing for a goal, and nearly got one in the 64th minute, when Jonathan Viera's shot from the center of the box beat goalkeeper Jo Su-huk but not the left goal post.

In this EPA photo, Park Joo-ho of Ulsan Hyundai FC (L) and Wang Gang of Beijing Guoan vie for the ball during the teams' quarterfinals match at the Asian Football Confederation Champions League at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, on Dec. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

Two minutes Later, Jo came up big to deny Augusto on a close-range header.

Ulsan played some dogged defense the rest of the way to keep Beijing off the board.

Ulsan head coach Kim Do-hoon thanked his players for their determined effort and said he was proud of the way they battled.

"It's been a long year, and we'll try to win our next two matches (semifinals and final) before we go home," said Kim, whose team finished in second place in both the K League 1 and the Korean FA Cup. "We're not feeling any pressure. I think the players are enjoying this. Even though they're confined to their hotel (due to COVID-19 restrictions), they're trying to keep things light and fun. I think it will lead to good plays on the pitch."

Junior, the offensive hero for Ulsan, said a win such as this can only help with the team's confidence moving forward.

"We went up against some great players today, and the fact that we beat them shows we're competing at a high level," Junior said. "We learned from our shortcomings in the K League and the FA Cup, and we're putting those lessons into practice here. We're trying to put those losses behind us and to make sure we don't make the same mistakes."

In this AFP photo, Dave Bulthuis of Ulsan Hyundai FC (R) battles Renato Augusto of Beijing Guoan for the ball during the teams' quarterfinals match at the Asian Football Confederation Champions League at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, on Dec. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

The AFC Champions League kicked off in February but went into a hiatus in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The "West Zone" teams in Groups A to D, from the likes of Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, completed the rest of their group stage in September and also played all the knockout matches in their half of the bracket -- all of them in Qatar. Persepolis FC of Iran are waiting in the final scheduled for Dec. 19.

The "East Zone" clubs in Groups E to H, from South Korea, China, Australia and Japan, returned to action in November in Qatar.

The semifinals match is Sunday, back at Al Janoub Stadium. The kickoff is 1 p.m. local time and 7 p.m. in Seoul.

In this Associated Press photo, Kim Tae-hwan of Ulsan Hyundai FC (R) and Alan Carvalho of Beijing Guoan battle for the ball during the teams' quarterfinals match at the Asian Football Confederation Champions League at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, on Dec. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
(END)

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