Seoul (AFP) – A painful defeat on penalties is driving Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors as they prepare to take on Al Ain in the AFC Champions League final, their coach said.
The K-League outfit beat domestic rivals FC Seoul 5-3 on aggregate late Wednesday to go into next month’s two-legged title match against the Emirati giants.
Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-Hee said memories remained fresh of their loss in the 2011 Asian final, when they went down on penalties to Qatar’s Al Sadd.
“We still feel the pain of five years ago,” said Choi, according to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) website. “These are painful memories and we are delighted to have the chance to play in another final.”
He added: “The final of this kind of competition is a big game and failing to win is hard. You can try to forget about it but it stays in your mind for a long time.”
FC Seoul won Wednesday’s second leg 2-1, but Jeonbuk went through 5-3 on aggregate courtesy of their thumping 4-1 victory in the home leg late last month.
The 2006 champions reach their third Asian final despite a domestic scandal. They were deducted nine points and fined after one of their scouts was convicted of bribing referees.
“When we gathered for pre-season in January, I told the players that our target was to win the AFC Champions League. To get to the final is a big deal for us,” said Choi.
Standing in their way are Al Ain, the inaugural winners in 2003 who are led by dazzling playmaker Omar Abdulrahman — who promised his focus would be on the team’s victory, rather than personal honours.
“My focus is always on helping Al Ain win titles and championships,” Abdulrahman told UAE’s The National. “The most important thing for me as a player is to defend the badge of this great club.
“Winning the Asian player of the year award is a goal —- if I win it is thanks to all the players at Al Ain and with the national team for helping me to always shine.”