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Koreans stand tall in AFC as Japan, Australia wilt

12 May 2010 18:05

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Defending champions Pohang Steelers shrugged off the sacking of their coach to make the AFC Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday, crushing Japanese hopes by beating Kashima Antlers 1-0.

In the other east zone game, Jeonbuk Motors dumped Adelaide United out 3-2 after extra-time with former Middlesbrough striker Lee Dong-Gook netting the winner.

It ensured South Korea have four teams in the last eight after Suwon Bluewings and Seongnam Ilhwa booked their places on Tuesday.

While Korea stamped its authority on Asia's top club competition, it was a tournament to forget for powerhouses Japan and Australia.

Japan's two-time quarter-finalists Kawasaki Frontale and tournament debutants Sanfrecce Hiroshima were eliminated in the group stage, as were Australia's Melbourne Victory, with Gamba Osaka sent packing on Tuesday.

Saudi outfit Al Shabab and Qatari champions Al Gharafa are the other teams through to the quarter-finals, with Luiz Felipe Scolari's Bunyodkor seeking to join later Wednesday when they face Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in Riyadh.

In the final match, Zobahan host fellow Iranian club Mes.

Pohang's players were still reeling from the sacking of Brazilian coach Waldemar Lemos in the lead-up to their crunch showdown, with assistant Park Chang-Hyun taking charge.

Lemos is the younger brother of Kashima coach Oswaldo Oliveira, who has led his team to a record three successive J-League titles.

But they have never progressed past the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League and must now wait until next year, if they qualify, for another crack.

The Steelers' Brazilian forward Mota got the decisive goal, his shot deflecting into the net off Atsuto Uchida after half an hour.

"We played against a really good team. We were not in our best form, but my players did their best to gain this good result," said Pohang coach Park.

"We only needed one chance to win. I'm really glad that we can go back home on a winning note."

In Adelaide, Dutch striker Sergio van Dijk sent a pulsating game into extra-time when he scrambled home the equaliser for the hosts in the sixth minute of injury time to leave the match poised at 2-2.

But striker Lee settled it for the 2006 champions, heading home from close range at the back post with four minutes remaining.

Jeonbuk were the better side for most of the match with their Brazilian striker Eninho outstanding with twin strikes in the 38th and 87th minute before he was replaced by manager Choi Kang-Hee with just minutes left of normal time.

Choi's decision appeared to initially backfire when van Dijk equalised late on, but the South Koreans had the final word in a frenetic match of nine yellow cards and one red, to Adelaide's Brazilian left-back Cassio in the dying seconds.

The quarter-finals are played in September after a break due to the searing Gulf summer heat, with the final at Tokyo's National Stadium on November 13.

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