Sunday, September 27, 2009

Second Legs Left To Right Perceived Wrongs For Koreans

Second Legs Left To Right Perceived Wrongs For Koreans.
A burning sense of injustice could spur on South Korea's two teams remaining in the Asian Champions League. In the first leg of their respective quarter finals, both Pohang Steelers and FC Seoul suffered defeats on their travels to Uzbekistan and Qatar respectively.

The K-League clubs have a chance to right the perceived wrongs on Wednesday evening in the second leg of their encounters.

Seoul have the best chance of making the last four, as the league leaders are just 3-2 behind Umm Salal with two away goals in the bank.

Seoul traveled to Qatar to face Umm Salal last week and the Korean league leaders raced into a two-goal lead thanks to Jung Jo-gook. The hosts pulled a goal back early in the second half but with around 20 minute remaining, Ahn Tae-eun fired home an unstoppable shot to give Seoul a 3-1 lead.

A first leg 3-1 win away from home in a quarter-final of a continental competition is an excellent result. The only problem was that Ahn’s goal was not allowed. The shot hit the underside of the crossbar and landed a metre behind the goal line before bouncing back out. It was a clear goal and the men in red-and-black celebrated only to see that the game was continuing around them.

The referee and his assistant missed the fact that Seoul had scored. If that wasn’t bad enough, some terrible Korean defending allowed Umm Salal’s Brazilian strike force to score two late goals to give the hosts a narrow advantage ahead of Wednesday’s match. If Seoul learn how to defend in the meantime, they could well turn the game around against a team that does not travel well.

Seoul boss Senol Gunes, a man who regularly voices his discontent at K-league referees - at least he did before embarking upon a vow of silence in post-match press conferences in protest at a rash of red cards - was philosophical about the oversight.

"We started the game well. We led the game 2-0 in the first half and took control of the match. However, a mistake in the second half let our opponents in with a chance,” Gunes said. “Since our opponents did not play a strong game, this was a match we had to win.”

Seoul returned from its midweek travels on Friday and face a tough Sunday afternoon K-League match against an improving Daejeon Citizen team.

Pohang Steelers had to face Busan I’Park on Saturday evening and managed to win 2-1. When it comes to Asia, the south-easterners probably had less to complain than their capital cousins but were less restrained in doing so.

Coach Sergio Farias took his men to Uzbekistan and the home of Asia’s richest club Bunyodkor. Pohang took an early lead only for the hosts to equalize in the first half.

Midway through the second period, the game was finely poised. The Koreans would have been satisfied with a 1-1 tie in a tough away match and would have been confident of winning on their own turf at the intimate Steelyard a week later.

Then, the Saudi Arabian referee brandished a second yellow card in the face of defender Kim Hyung-il, a player who is improving all the time, and he had to leave the field. Even now, nobody is sure exactly why the blonde battler was dismissed but it changed the game. The Tashkent team took advantage of its extra man to score two late goals to take control of the tie.

"It is impossible to win a game when a referee like the one we had today officiates the game. I noticed several poor calls in our defensive zone,” Farias said after the match.

“I don’t have to explain, if you saw the game you would know what I’m talking about. I don’t understand, Bunyodkor players got calls but we didn’t get similar calls. I don’t even know why Kim Hyung-il was sent off.”

More serious was the fact that Pohang complained that home fans at the Jar Stadium were shining laser pointers in the eyes of goalkeeper Shin Hwa-yong.

“I’m disappointed that such an incident took place at an important match like today. I think the outcome of the match was swayed by the referee,” said Farias.

There are still 90 minutes remaining in which to rectify the situation.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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