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FC Seoul makes AFC Champions League finals

2013/10/03 09:37

SEOUL, Oct. 3 (Yonhap) -- FC Seoul has reached the finals of the AFC Champions League.

FC Seoul played to a 2-2 draw against Esteghlal in Tehran early Thursday, Korean time, to finish off a 4-2 aggregate victory over the Iranian club in their two-leg semifinals.

FC Seoul is the fifth straight club from South Korea's K League Classic to make the finals at the top Asian club football competition.

In the finals, FC Seoul will meet Guangzhou Evergrande of China. The Chinese club defeated Kashiwa Reysol of Japan 4-0 in the second leg of their semifinals on Wednesday and advanced to the finals on the aggregate score of 8-1.

The championship series will also be two-legged, and the opening match will be held at Seoul World Cup Stadium on an October day to be determined later.

After beating Esteghlal 2-0 at Seoul World Cup Stadium last week, FC Seoul only needed a draw or a one-goal loss to advance to its first-ever AFC finals.

Team captain Ha Dae-sung put FC Seoul on board late in the first half, which left Esteghlal needing four goals to advance to the finals. The Iranian club got halfway there with goals by Jlloyd Samuel and Mohammad Ghazi, but FC Seoul's Kim Jin-kyu converted a penalty in the 80th minute to dash Esteghlal's hopes.

Facing a two-goal deficit, Esteghlal was the aggressor from early on, with Siavash Akbarpour and Ahmad Jamshidian putting pressure on the visiting defense with hard shots.

Sergio Escudero responded for Seoul with a curling shot that just missed the net, but Esteghlal came right back, with captain Farhad Majidi having a goal disallowed for offside.

Ha drew the first blood in the 38th minute with a delicate chip over the Esteghlal defense and goalkeeper Mehdi Rahmati.

The Iranian club pulled even just five minutes into the second half on Samuel's header. About 15 minutes left, Ghazi pounced on his own rebound off the right post to make it 2-1.

Five minutes later, though, Hanif Omranzadeh fouled Cha Du-ri in his box, taking the wind out of Esteghlal's sails. Kim then stepped up and put the ball into the top left corner to seal the deal for FC Seoul.

From South Korea, Pohang Steelers, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and Ulsan Hyundai Tigers captured the crown in 2009, 2010 and 2012, and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors finished second in 2011.

FC Seoul players and coaches celebrate Ha Dae-sung's opening goal against Esteghlal in their semifinals match in Tehran on Oct. 2, 2013. (Joint Press Corps)

Choi Yong-soo, FC Seoul's head coach, said he was happy with the result, but his team's task is far from finished.

"We played in Tehran's superb stadium and scored two very good goals," he told AFC's website. "I shall remain grateful to all of my players, but our real challenge has just begun."

   Choi said luck has had little to do with his team's success so far.

"My players have been smart, and they put out all of their effort and capabilities," he said. "There's always a team behind team, and club's management kept backing us well all the way through."

   Choi said he was also looking forward to going up against Guangzhou, calling it a club with "quality players."

   "We can use the long gap between now and our next game to gear up for the clash," Choi said. "Champions and runners-up in this tournament will be very differently looked upon, so we will try our best to come out as winners."

   jeeho@yna.co.kr

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