Ulsan Hyundai thrashed Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli 3-0 on Saturday to lift their first AFC Champions League trophy and become the third South Korean club in four years to be crowned kings of Asia.
Goals from Kwak Tae-Hwi, Rafinha and Kim Seung-Yong raised the roof at Ulsan’s home stadium and ensured that Kim Ho-Gon’s side followed in the footsteps of Pohang Steelers and Seongnam Ilhwa, winners in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
“The win is down to the players, it is all because of them. We told them that we needed to win the game and to treat it as a normal game”
Ulsan coach Kim Ho-Gon
“The win is down to the players, it is all because of them. We told them that we needed to win the game and to treat it as a normal game. I told them to pressure the opposition from the first half and we got off to a good start,” said Kim Ho-Gon.
He added that Ulsan had taken confidence from their 4-0 win over Al Hilal in the second leg of the quarter final in Saudi Arabia.
“From then, we knew we could win the competition and we could look forward and face any team in the belief that we could beat anyone.”
Al Ahli coach Karel Jarolim was disappointed with the performance that ensured a second loss in as many finals. The team created few chances and rarely troubled the Ulsan goalkeeper.
“I would like to congratulate Ulsan for winning,” said the Czech tactician.
“We missed opportunities in the first half. After the first goal, we had a few chances to get at least a goal in the first half but were unable to take them.
Al Ahli rarely troubled the hosts’ defence throughout the 90 minutes and in the end Ulsan were comfortable winners, to the delight of an impressive crowd of 42,153.
Ulsan started the game brightly, with Rafinha and Kwak both going close in the opening 10 minutes in what was threatening to be a one-sided affair even at such an early stage.
In the 13th minute, Ulsan claimed the lead their impressive start deserved when club captain Kwak ambled up from defence to meet Kim Seung-Yong’s free kick with a firm header.
Juan Estiven Velez tried his luck from long range on two occasions as Ulsan sought to extend their advantage and Al Ahli continued to struggle, but both attempts were well off target.
Al Ahli offered little serious threat in attack and, with four minutes left in the half, Kim Shin-Wook hooked his attempt wide as Ulsan sought what was turning out to be an elusive second goal.
That though changed midway through the second half when Velez’s ball was headed across goal by Kim Shin-Wook and into the path of Rafinha, who scored his fifth goal in five Champions League games since arriving from J-League side Gamba Osaka.
And, with 15 minutes to go, Kim Seung-Yong added a deserved third for the dominant Ulsan when his left-foot drive from a tight angle gave Al Ahli goalkeeper Abdullah Al Muaiouf little chance.
Ulsan’s fans celebrated wildly after the win which also secures their team a berth next month’s FIFA Club World Cup finals in Japan.