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Football: Seoul sneak in as four Korean clubs qualify for ACL last 16

FC Seoul (right) edged Kashima Antlers 3-2 in Japan to secure a meeting with J.League champions Gamba Osaka in the last 16 of the AFC Champions League. Photo: WSG.

FC Seoul (right) edged Kashima Antlers 3-2 to secure a last-16 tie with J.League champions Gamba Osaka. Photo: WSG.

May 7, 2015: Former winners Gamba Osaka and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors joined Beijing Guoan, FC Seoul, Emirati club Al Ahli, Naft Tehran, Lekhwiya and Persepolis in claiming the remaining places in the AFC Champions League Round of 16 this week, although defending champions Western Sydney Wanderers were eliminated.


The eight teams will line up in the two-legged Round of 16 alongside Kashiwa Reysol, Guangzhou Evergrande, Al Ahli and Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, Al Ain, Al Sadd and Seongnam FC who had qualified ahead of the final round of group ties.


Former finalists FC Seoul were among four sides from the Korea Republic to book their place in the second phase. However, they left it late as a stoppage-time winner from former winner Mauricio Molina secured a 3-2 victory over Kashima Antlers in Japan took Choi Yong-soo’s side through as Group H runners-up ahead of Australia’s Western Sydney.


“The result was more important than the performance, and so our players played with a very high concentration and displayed their full focus and capabilities,” Choi said following Tuesday’s win. “We often discussed that we would have to win to get through to the next round, and we spoke about this again at half-time, so we stayed with our attacking football throughout.”


Semi-finalists last year, FC Seoul will now face J.League champions Gamba Osaka, the 2008 winners who defeated Seongnam 2-1 in Japan to win Group F. Kim Hak-bum’s Seongnam side will face Guangzhou Evergrande, who had already won Group H before Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Western Sydney.


Jeonbuk finished second place behind Kashiwa Reysol in Group E after the K-League Classic champions cruised past Shandong Luneng 4-1 in their winner-take-all encounter in Jeonju on Wednesday to secure a meeting with Group G winners Beijing Guoan.


Guoan shared the points with already-qualified Suwon Samsung the day before to clinch the group by virtue of their superior head-to-head record over the Korean club, who will play Kashiwa after the Japanese side lost 1-0 to Vietnam’s Becamex Binh Duong in their final group-stage match.


In the West

Al Ahli of the UAE were indebted to a pair of late headers from captain Ahmed Khalil to secure a 3-2 win over Iran’s Tractorsazi Tabriz which, coupled with Nasaf’s goalless draw with Group D winners Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia, secured them a Round of 16 tie with compatriots and Group B table toppers Al Ain.


Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu said: “Our main target was to advance to the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League and now we achieved our target. We expected a tough match, but our players played with a great fighting spirit which helped us to win.”


Group B runners-up Naft Tehran from Iran will face-off against Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia, despite losing 3-0 in Al Ain of the UAE after Al Shabab posted a surprise 2-0 win over Pakhtakor.


On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal secured top spot in Group C following a 2-1 win over runners-up and fellow former Asian champions Al Sadd, while Iran’s Foolad Khouzestan claimed third place with a 1-0 victory over Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv.


Al Hilal will face Group A runner-up Persepolis from Iran, who advanced thanks to a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor, while Al Sadd will take on Group A winners and fellow Qatar Stars League side Lekhwiya.


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Source: WSG (; Editing by SportAsia

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