TOKYO (AFP) - South Korea's Pohang Steelers shocked two-time champions Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia 2-1 to capture the AFC Champions League title at Tokyo's National Stadium on Saturday.
After a scoreless first half, the opening goal was scored by forward No Byung-Jun, who netted from a free kick 25 yards out in the 57th minute after the team's top scorer, Brazilian Denilson, was fouled.
The Koreans doubled their lead just eight minutes later from another set piece. Midfielder Kim Jae-Sung played the ball into the box from the right and defender Kim Hyung-Il headed in to leave the Saudi giants with an uphill task.
Although Al Ittihad clawed a goal back through Mohammed Noor with just 16 minutes to go they could not find an equaliser, with Morocco midfielder Hicham Aboucherouane's free kick flashing wide in injury time.
The title was Pohang's third continental triumph following their victories in the former Asian Club Championship in 1997 and 1998, meaning they become the most successful team in Asian football history.
"It was a final between two excellent teams. The result of 2-1 shows it very well," said Pohang's Brazilian coach Sergio Farias.
"Korean football has a lot more room to improve further. I hope this victory paves the way for that."
In the first half the momentum switched several times, with midfielder Shin Hyung-Min failing to connect cleanly with a shot from distance and Macedonian striker Stevica Ristic forcing the Saudi goalkeeper into a save.
Both sides were guilty of missing several more chances to open the scoring before Al Ittihad skipper Noor was brought down by Shin Hyung-Min just outside the area as half-time approached, with Shin booked as a result.
Pohang's victory gives them a berth in next month's FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, which also includes the likes of European champions Barcelona.
"It was really a difficult match. The level of their technique is really high and they shut out our attacks," said Farias.
"We adjusted it at half time and regained control," he said, adding that his side were able to break through from a set play, which he regarded as Al Ittihad's vulnerable point.
Farias said before the Club World Cup his team had the K-League play-offs following their second-placed finish in the league.
"We are going to aim for our second league victory. We know what we must do in our preparation for the Club World Cup," he said.
Al Ittihad's Argentine coach Gabriel Calderon admitted that Pohang's ability to take their chances decided the game.
"We did our very best, but your hard work does not always end with a goal. I'm disappointed," said Calderon.
"We created many chances, at least six chances, but it never ended with a goal. On the other side, they took their chances on a set play. But we played a high-quality game. We couldn't win today, but I'm satisfied with our performance," he added.
Al Ittihad, AFC Champions League winners in 2004 and 2005, won the 2008-2009 Saudi Pro League.
|Hamad Al Montashari|
|Saleh Al Saqri|
|Obaid Al Shamrani|
|Mohammed Noor||50' 74'|
|Coach: G. Calderón|
|Andreazzoli targets landmark triumph|
|Subotic rues missed opportunities|
|City hold off Chelsea at Yankee Stadium|
|Ribery revels in overdue triumph|
|Neymar announces Barca switch|
|Hoeness hails Bayern´s ´insane season´|
|Beaten Weidenfeller holds head high|
|Mauri awaits career highlight|
|Robben relieved to net winner|
|Klopp, Dortmund vow to recover|
|Heynckes may delay retirement|
|Matchwinner Robben hails ´special feeling´|
|UEFA Champions League team of the season|
|UEFA Champions League: Borussia Dortmund 1 Bayern Munich 2|
|Ancelotti: No Real Madrid contact|
|Roura calms statue row|
|Eredivisie Preview: Utrecht v Twente|
|Adams calls for Arsenal defensive reinforcements|
|Aguero pens Man City extension|
|UAE Pro-League Wrap: Al Ain secure victory as Al Shaab secure safety|
|Pellegrini tight-lipped on future|
|Keane: Galaxy need confidence|
|Wechsel zu Atletico? Patrick Ebert will Champions League spielen|
|J.League Wrap: Omiya Ardija stay top, Yokohama keep pressure on|
|Jones aims for full pre-season|
|Gerrard hails ´unbelievable´ Carragher|
|Lavezzi wants Rooney to join PSG revolution|
|Beckham´s MLS plans stalled|
|Heynckes lauds Robben|
|Michu aims for improvements at Swansea|
|Zidane unsurprised by all-German Champions League final|
|Hummels hopeful Dortmund success will stop exodus|
|Lescott keen to move forward|
|Cavani concentrating on Napoli|
|Deeney looks to pay back support|
|Fernandes: We got it wrong at QPR|
|Lampard wants new Terry deal|
|Le Fondre: Reading have improved under Adkins|
|Yanga-Mbiwa focused on improvement|
|Zidane: Bale is in world´s top three players|
|Championship Preview: Crystal Palace v Watford|
|Aguero plans to honour City contract|
|Mourinho return excites Ba|
|Polish Ekstraklasa: Widzew Lodz 1 Legia Warsaw 1|
|Oezil keen to stay at Real|
|De Rossi pleads for peaceful final|
|Chelsea, Galatasaray vie for Turan|
|Ballack predicts a Bayern victory|
|Santos accept Neymar bids|
|Atletico plot Negredo swoop|
|La Liga Preview: Espanyol v Barcelona|
|Valbuena: My best season so far|
|Blackburn give Bowyer permanent role|
|Dortmund can get better, insists Klopp|
|Fernandes: No Caterham exit plans|
|Inter appoint Mazzarri, sack Stramaccioni|
|Benitez in Napoli link|
|Adams signs new Ross County deal|
|Heynckes: Bayern are extraordinary|
|Platini: European sports police needed|
|Taylor calls on Coloccini to stay|
|Verratti is going nowhere, says agent|
|Neymar set to leave Santos ´within 10 days´|
|Gill expects Rooney stay|
|Departing Cole thanks West Ham fans|
|Shechter grateful for Swansea support|
|Townsend charged over betting rules|
|Reading release six players|
|Monaco splash out for Moutinho, Rodriguez|
|Rummenigge: Bayern not complacent|
|Giroud seeks improvement|
|Palermo chief welcomes bids for Ilicic|
|AZ bolster defensive stocks|
|Lambert: Benteke needs to stay at Villa|
|Andreolli poised for Inter return|
|Bianchi: Boca players tired|
|Cech: Mourinho a great manager|
|Blatter outlines racism resolution aim|
|Manchester City players coy on Pellegrini|
|Marseille priced out of Damiao move|
|McAuley: West Brom could have done more|
|Osman extends Everton stay|
|Stoke reject N´Zonzi transfer request|
|Carragher retirement ´sad´, says Mourinho|
|Manolev happy to help|
|Europa league winners to get Champions League spot|
|First goal bittersweet for Azpilicueta|
|La Liga Preview: Real Sociedad v Real Madrid|
|La Liga Preview: Pressure on for Euro spots|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Victory only hope for Troyes|
|MLS preview: Second place up for grabs|
|Coentrao heading for Real exit|
|Coppa Italia Preview: Roma v Lazio|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Lorient v PSG|
|Malaga win was catalyst, says Klopp|
|Milan finalise Zapata switch|
|Montella braced for Jovetic departure|
|Simeone will not block Falcao exit|
|Van Gaal talks down Netherlands´ chances|
|Coupet doubts Monaco´s potential|
|Man City edge Chelsea in thrilling friendly|
|Torres wants Mourinho at Chelsea|
|Copa Libertadores Wrap: Atletico Mineiro snatch late draw|
|Galliani dismisses Berlusconi row reports|
|San Lorenzo renew Coloccini pursuit|
|Benteke sparks fears of Villa exit|
|Weidenfeller: We can be heroes|
|Injured Messi called up by Argentina|
|Cleverley taking inspiration from Spain|
|Kellermann proud of resilient Wolfsburg|
|Robben hails dominant Germany|
|Europe the benchmark for Zaccheroni´s Japan|
|Osieck backs Schwarzer to shine|