Ulsan Hyundai will host the Asian Champions League final after the South Koreans edged past Uzbek champions Bunyodkor 2-0 in the second leg of their semi-final on Wednesday for a comprehensive 5-1 aggregate victory.
Tall striker Kim Shin-wook and tricky midfielder Lee Keun-ho scored second-half goals as Ulsan made sure there would be Korean representatives in the final of Asia’s premier club tournament for a fourth consecutive year.
Ulsan will face Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia in the final on November 10 after they defeated another Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad in their semi-final on Wednesday.
Al Ahli bounced back from losing the first leg to beat crosstown Jeddah rival Al Ittihad 2-0.
Al Ahli won 2-1 on aggregate after a headed goal from Motaz al-Musa in the 44th minute and a calm finish by Brazilian striker Victor Simoes de Oliveira in the 83rd.
South Koreans Ulsan Hyundai, looking for a first Champions League title, had been heavy favourites to advance after winning 3-1 in Tashkent last week but they surprisingly showed little confidence in the early stages on home soil.
Bunyodkor, who had already won away to K-League opponents Pohang Steelers and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma earlier in the tournament, took the game to the Koreans with forward Shavkat Salomov causing the home side numerous problems.
Ulsan goalkeeper Kim Young-kwang made three sharp saves from the Uzbek striker in the first 20 minutes as an attack-minded Bunyodkor pushed forward in an attempt to claw back the big deficit.
The visitors continued to create the better chances with Ulsan happy to sit back and defend their advantage but some poor finishing cost them, Jovlon Ibrokhumov, who scored in the first leg, guilty of wasting a good chance from the edge of the area just after halftime.
But they failed to find the breakthrough and Ulsan, the only unbeaten side remaining in the tournament, improved after the interval with Kim Shin-wook opening the scoring eight minutes in to the second period with his sixth goal of the tournament.
Uzbek defender Hayrulla Karimov slipped as he tried to clear Brazilian forward Rafinha’s cross from the left allowing the tall striker to blast the ball into the back of the next from six metres out.
The goal deflated the visitors and Ulsan scored a second with dangerman Rafinha once again providing the assist as Lee Keun-ho lashed home a sharp shot from the right to double the lead in the 74th minute.
Ulsan will host the one-match final after their semi was drawn as hosts by the Asian Football Confederation back in June.
The move to have one finalist host the deciding match was brought in by the AFC last year to improve attendances with neutral venues attracting few fans.
Ulsan, fifth in the K-League with a handful of matches remaining, will hope next week’s final will bring out more of their supporters with Wednesday’s match at the 44,000 Ulsan football stadium littered with empty seats.
The winners of the Asian Champions League will take part in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December alongside Chelsea, Corinthians, Auckland City and Monterrey with another finalists to be decided.