Pohang win penalty thriller to reach Champions League final

Jeonju (South Korea) (AFP) – South Korea’s Pohang Steelers will face Saudi giants Al Hilal in the AFC Champions League final after defeating title-holders Ulsan Hyundai 5-4 on penalties on Wednesday.

The two sides, rivals on South Korea’s east coast, were locked at 1-1 after 120 tense minutes with Pohang equalising with just a minute left of normal time to force the extra period.

Skipper Kang Sang-woo was the hero for Pohang, holding his nerve to slam his winning penalty into the corner, before being mobbed by his teammates. 

Ulsan top the K League but it was mid-table Pohang who started better and hit the post in the opening quarter at Jeonju World Cup Stadium, where there was a sparse, socially distanced crowd.

The two sides conjured up only three shots on target between them in 45 minutes of cautious first-half football.

But the game came to life after that. Pohang goalkeeper Lee Jun had looked shaky throughout and it was his mistake that allowed Ulsan to score when he fumbled a routine stop into the path of Yun Il-lok.

The 2009 champions Pohang squandered three clear-cut chances in the space of 10 frenetic minutes, but just when Ulsan looked like they had weathered the storm, their skipper Won Du-jae was red-carded in the 68th minute.

It was all Pohang after that and the pressure told in the 89th minute when their British-born Australian defender Alex Grant popped up with a looping header that went in off the post to force extra-time.

On Tuesday, Al Hilal defeated rivals Al Nassr 2-1 in a Riyadh derby, with Mali striker Moussa Marega and Saudi international Salem al-Dawsari scoring either side of the break.

The final is on November 23.

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