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(2nd LD) Ulsan blank Beijing to reach AFC Champions League semifinals

All News 02:07 December 11, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS another match result in para 5, 20-26, photos; CHANGES dateline)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 11 (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 became the first team to score at least two goals in their seventh straight match in a single AFC Champions League tournament.

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)

A much-anticipated Korean showdown won't materialize, as Suwon Samsung Bluewings lost to Vissel Kobe 7-6 on penalties in Thursday's second quarterfinals match at Al Janoub Stadium.

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, 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, as he is commonly known, 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)

In the day's second quarterfinals match, Suwon opened up a 1-0 lead over Vissel Kobe in the seventh minute when Park Sang-hyeok headed in a Ko Seung-beom cross.

Suwon caught a tough break in the 38th minute when defender Kim Tae-hwan was shown the direct red card for tripping up Daigo Nishi just outside the box.

Kyogo Furuhashi scored the equalizer on the ensuing free kick, with a shot that barely left the ground and rolled underneath a wall of jumping Suwon defenders.

Suwon held their ground in the second half, with Vissel Kobe having trouble capitalizing on their man advantage. Suwon almost took a shocking lead moments before the end of regulation, when Kim Gun-hee was denied by goalkeeper Daiya Maekawa from the center of the box.

In this Reuters photo, Park Sang-hyeok of Suwon Samsung Bluewings (L) is congratulated by teammate Lim Sang-hyub after scoring a goal against Vissel Kobe 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)

Suwon dodged a few bullets early in the extra period. Four minutes in, Furuhashi's header grazed off the right goal post. Moments later, Furuhashi set up Douglas for a wide-open chance, but the Brazilian forward slipped and didn't get much behind the shot. Defender Yang Sang-min cleared the ball away just before it bounced into the net.

Suwon got a taste of their own medicine in the 26th minute of extra time, when Ko Seung-beom's volley after a rebound hit the left post.

In the penalty shootout, the first six shooters for each side all scored. Then Suwon's seventh kicker, Jang Ho-ik, airmailed his shot to give Vissel Kobe an opening. Noriaki Fujimoto converted his chance to send the Japanese club to the semifinals.

In this Reuters photo, Koo Dae-young of Suwon Samsung Bluewings (R) is in action against Yutaro Oda of Vissel Kobe 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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