Al-Ain (United Arab Emirates) (AFP) – Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors’ coach said they had achieved an “unforgettable dream” after regaining the AFC Champions League title in an incident-packed second leg of the final against Al Ain.
The South Korean club held on for a 1-1 draw and a 3-2 aggregate win after the UAE’s Al Ain had missed a penalty and had their coach Zlatko Dalic sent to the stands in stormy scenes at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
Jeonbuk’s victory stunned the home fans and left Al Ain’s talismanic captain and playmaker Omar ‘Amoory’ Abdulrahman, who was well shackled for much of the final, stony-faced despite being named player of the tournament.
It returns the Asian trophy to Jeonbuk after a gap of 10 years, and comes despite a match-fixing scandal which rocked their domestic season and effectively cost them the K-League Classic title.
“It’s our first (Asian) title since 2006, I’m so happy,” said their coach Choi Kang-Hee, according to the Asian Football Confederation website.
“When we lost in (the 2011 final to Al Sadd on penalties), I saw the fans were so dispirited, so winning the AFC Champions League is an unforgettable dream.”
Han Kyo-Won volleyed Jeonbuk ahead on the half-hour before Al Ain’s South Korean midfielder Lee Myung-Joo equalised four minutes later.
– Chaotic scenes –
But the turning point came in a chaotic few minutes before half-time when Brazilian striker Douglas missed a penalty and Dalic was given his marching orders shortly afterwards.
Al Ain’s assistant coach Borimir Perkovic, deputising for his fellow Croatian Dalic, said he felt the home club “deserved to be champions”.
“In the second half maybe we didn’t play at the same level as the first 45 minutes, but we gave our all and, really, bravo for everybody, the players who played today and the fans in the tribune, they were fantastic,” he said.
“I’m sure Al Ain deserved to be champions. We are sad but this is football. I want to say congratulations to Jeonbuk.”
For mop-haired Abdulrahman, who has been linked with Manchester City, Barcelona and Arsenal, it was a crushing disappointment and he was consoled by players and officials as he sat stricken on the pitch.
“I want to tell the fans I’m sorry about the result and I hope they will support us like they did today, with a full stadium,” said Abdulrahman.
“We promise them we will fight in every competition, for the AFC Champions League, in the domestic league, the cup and everything.”
Another consolation may come for Abdulrahman next week in Abu Dhabi, when he is favourite to be named Asia’s player of the year at the AFC’s annual awards.
Jeonbuk now progress to next month’s Club World Cup in Japan — a huge turnaround after they were docked nine K-League points and fined in September after one of their scouts was convicted of bribing referees.