Five star show gives Ittihad the spoils


Youth Team

Ittihad celebrate their unlikely triumph in the AFC Champions League final [Lim Sung Kyun/WSG]
Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (KOR) 0 Al Ittihad (KSA) 5
Al Ittihad win 6-3 on aggregate
AFC Champions League Final – Second Leg

SEOUL - Al Ittihad, of Saudi Arabia, are the 2004 AFC Champions League champions thanks to a performance that will go down in the annals of Asian football.

Trailing by 3-1 from the first leg in Jeddah last Wednesday and with a new coach at the helm, few were expecting anything other than a Seongnam Chunma victory.

In fact, given the fact that the visitors knew they had to throw caution to the wind, some observers were predicting a heavy defeat for the demoralised Saudi side.

The reality could not have been more different as the visitors dominated large parts of the game as they crushed the Koreans by five goals.

Things could have been different though if Seongnam had taken their opportunities in the first half. With an unusually large crowd cheering them on at the Seongnam Sports Complex, the K-League side made much of the early running with Kim Do-hoon blazing wide after latching on to Dudu’s through ball while Lee Ki-hyung fired an 11th minute free-kick just past the left upright.

Al Ittihad had few real opportunities in the early stages but opened the scoring after 27 minutes when centre half Redha Tukar rose high above Park Woo-hyun in the Seongnam defence to head Chico’s corner past goalkeeper Yang Young-min.

Seongnam responded with their best spell of the match as Denis Laktionov’s corner kick bounced off the top of the crossbar and Lee Ki-hyung hit the inside of the right post with a shot from just inside the box.

Those misses would prove costly as the six-time Saudi league champions struck a crucial second goal on the stroke of half-time. Chico was once again the provider as he lofted in a free kick from the right flank that the Seongnam defence failed to deal with. The ball was knocked back by Hamad Al Montashari into the path of Hamzah Idris who prodded the ball past Yang from close range.

The goal came at a crucial time for Dragan Talajic’s side and self-belief coursed through his side in the opening exchanges of the second half.

Having absorbed Seongnam’s early pressure, Al Ittihad went ahead on aggregate for the first time with a magnificent goal on the counterattack in the 55th minute. Manaf Abushgeer was released down the left by Hamzah Idris’s through ball and his low cross eluded a crowd of players in the middle before finding skipper, Mohammad Noor, who slid in at the far post to put the ball into the unguarded net.

Seongnam pushed forward in a desperate attempt to get back into the tie and substitute Marcedo Marcello went close as his header off a Dudu corner was saved by Ittihad goalkeeper Hussain Al Sadiq.

The Koreans left large gaps at the back and they were cruelly exposed again in the 78th minute as the Saudis scored the killer fourth goal on yet another lethal counter-attack. With the entire Seongnam defence caught upfield, Hamzah Idris broke down the left flank and centred for a completely unmarked Mohammad Noor to slide the ball past Yang Young-min.

Laktionov’s shot on the turn forced a magnificent save out of Al Sadiq but the attacks of the shell-shocked Korean side offered little real threat in the closing stages.

And the visitors capped off an amazing night five minute into added time as Abushgeer turned defender Kim Sung-il on the left of the Seongnam box before curling the ball past the helpless Yang, just inside the far post.

Voltaic Borusse

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Bander is a legend in his own right. Period. Bander and I speak via MSN all the time. His vast knowledge on the game of football is quite impressive -- to say the very least. Anyway, congrats to Al Ittihad. Talk to you later, Bander.