Professional soccer’s K League One leaders Ulsan Hyundai and second-placed Pohang Steelers sang a victory chorus in the third round of the 2023-2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) group stage.
Ulsan won 3-1 at home against Johor Darul Taqzim (Malaysia) in their ACL Group I third-leg match on Thursday at Ulsan Munsu Stadium.
With two wins and one loss in Group I (6 points), Ulsan escaped from its recent slump of four consecutive games (two draws and one loss in the K League 1 and one loss in the ACL) without a win or a goal.
Notably, Ulsan also wiped the slate clean from last year’s ACL group stage, where they lost twice to Johor.
Ulsan, who have been struggling to find the back of the net lately, took the lead in the fifth minute of the first half.
Central defender Jung Seung-hyun, who was part of the attack on Vojanic’s left corner kick, redirected the ball with his right foot from the front of the goal area.
Buoyed by the momentum, Ulsan opened the scoring in the 12th minute with another goal from Rubiksson.
Lee Dong-kyung’s pass from the midfield deflected off an opponent and found Rubikson, who rushed forward and beat a defender to the ball before firing a right-footed shot into the net from the front of the penalty area.
Rubikson completed his hat-trick in the 18th minute when he received a long diagonal pass from Jung Seung-hyun, cut in from the left side of the goal area and finished with a right-footed shot.
But there was also bad news.
Right fullback Kim Tae-hwan, who received a yellow card in the 25th minute, was sent off in the 35th minute for a second yellow card in a ball contest, leaving Ulsan with a numerical disadvantage.
Ulsan, which started the second half with 10 men, conceded in the eighth minute of the second half to Johor’s Bersson, who has K League experience.
Bersson, who played briefly for Suwon Samsung (eight games) and Busan I-Park (seven games), scored with a powerful right-footed shot from the left side of the penalty area.
Despite being outnumbered, Ulsan kept Johor’s offense at bay and sealed the win without conceding another goal.
In the third match of ACL Group J at Saitama Stadium 2002 in Saitama Prefecture, Japan, Pohang defeated last year’s ACL Champions Urawa Reds 2-0.
With the victory, Pohang extended its winning streak to three games (9 points) and solidified its position at the top of the group.
Pohang struggled to develop their offense in the first half as they were held back by Urawa’s strong offense.
Unable to capitalize on their chances, Pohang turned the tide in the 22nd minute with a goal from Jung Jae-hee.
Jung dived in front of the penalty area off a cross from the left flank by Kim Seung-dae and scored a valuable first goal with a right-footed shot.
However, Jung Jae-hee, who scored the first goal, went down in the 27th minute complaining of pain in his right thigh and was replaced by Kim In-sung in the 30th minute.
Pohang ended the first half without a goal as Zeca’s shot from the right side of the penalty area was saved by the goalkeeper in the 36th minute, and Kim In-sung’s right-footed shot from the right side of the penalty area in stoppage time narrowly missed the left post.
Pohang added another goal five minutes into the second half, and it was Ko Young-jun, who Urawa said was Pohang’s most impressive player.
On a counterattack, Kim In-sung quickly rushed to the right side of the penalty area and sent a cross into the box, where Ko Young-jun, who was charging in from the other side, scored with a left-footed shot from the left side of the penalty area to put an end to the ‘big fish hunt’. 스포츠토토