Zobahan beat Saudi Arabia’s al-Hilal 1-0 to set up meeting with Seongnam Ilhwa of South Korea.
|Australia’s Sasa Ognenovski taps in Seongnam’s first goal at Japan’s National Stadium in Tokyo [AFP]|
South Korea’s Seongnam Ilhwa have beaten Iran’s Zob Ahan 3-1 to win the Asian Champions League final in Tokyo, giving South Korea back-to-back titles, after K-League rivals Pohang Steelers won the competition last year.
Kim Cheol-ho sealed the win in the 83rd minute on Saturday, firing home a loose ball after a deflection to make it 3-1, booking Seongnam’s place in December’s Club World Cup.
Australian defender Sasa Ognenovski gave Seongnam a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute when he beat Zob Ahan goalkeeper Shahabaldin Gordan from close range.
A free kick from Seongnam’s Colombian striker Uribe Molina near the corner flag almost crept in before Zobahan forward Mohammad Ghazi forced a smart save from South Korea’s World Cup goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong just before half-time
Seongnam, last Asian champions in 1995, made it 2-0 eight minutes into the second half, when Cho Byung-kuk converted a corner kick from Uribe Molina.
Striker Mohammad Khalatbari pulled one back for Zob Ahan in the 67th minute, tapping in a rebound after Igor Castro’s shot was kicked away by Seongnam goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong, but Kim Cheol-ho stabbed in a third for Seongnam eight minutes from time to seal victory.
“I’m double-happy to be Asian champions as a coach after winning it as a player,” said a beaming manager Shin Tae-yong who played for the 1995 side.
The 40-year-old told reporters he was still haunted by Seongnam’s previous appearance in the AFC Champions League final in 2004.
He watched both legs from the bench as Seongnam beat Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad 3-1 away before suffering a stunning 5-0 home humiliation which cost the club the title.
“I’ve tried not to let those bad memories linger,” said Shin.
“It’s like mind control, trying to banish those ghosts but we did it so I can say I am a ‘special one’ too now.”
The seven-time K-League champions follow South Korean sides Jeonbuk Motors (2006) and Pohang Steelers (2009) as winners of the continent’s flagship club competition.
With the win, Seongnam secured a place in next month’s Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi. The AFC representatives will face the winner of the match between hosts Al Wahda and OFC champions Hekari United for the chance to play Inter Milan in the semi-finals.