September 17, 2014 – 11:06PM
Western Sydney sit in the box seat to make the Asian Champions League decider, holding FC Seoul to a scoreless draw in the first leg of their semi-final clash in South Korea.
The Wanderers had scored in every match of their maiden ACL campaign until Wednesday’s stalemate at Seoul World Cup Stadium where the hosts were left to rue several spurned chances.
Western Sydney will now host last year’s ACL runners up at Parramatta Stadium in the second leg on October 1 where victory will ensure the Wanderers join Adelaide United as just the second A-League club to make the ACL final.
The Wanderers displayed all the confidence of the side who’d knocked out the ACL champions Guangzhou Evergrande last month, dominating possession in the opening stages before the five-time K-League champions began to take hold of the match.
Western Sydney lacked firepower up front without key strikers Tomi Juric and Brendon Santalab along with utility Shannon Cole, who were all suspended, but their defence delivered.
All three will be back for the return leg in a fortnight.
Labinot Haliti led the attack and created the first chance of the match just seven minutes in, which was easily saved by FC Seoul keeper Yu Sang-Hun.
Soon it was the hosts on the attack with Park Hee-Seong attempting a strike which deflected wide.
Striker Sergio Escudero capitalised on a defensive error from Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Brendan Hamill to make a charge for goal moments later.
Luckily for the Wanderers Hamill caught up with the Spaniard to deflect his shot wide.
The Wanderers’ bearded Brazilian Vitor Saba, making his starting debut, then had the Seoul gloveman scrambling with a dangerous slice which went just wide.
FC Seoul looked like breaking the deadlock just before halftime when Park Hee-Seong struck but Wanderers keeper Ante Covic saved the effort.
Seoul coach Choi Yong-Soo made his attacking intent clear after the break, bringing on dangerous Colombian Mauricio Molina and lighting fast Brazilian Everton Santos. Both threatened.
Molina tested Covic with 20 minutes remaining, launching onto a well-placed cross from Cha Du-Ri and the Colombian drew another save from the gloveman just minutes later.
Saba showed his crafty skill to shake three markers in the dying stages and attempt a strike which sailed over the crossbar.
Haliti could have scored the crucial away goal in the final minutes, getting onto a great ball to the back post but miss-hit it.
Seoul would have one last crack before the final whistle with Covic diffusing a Santos strike to keep the score 0-0.
Wanderers skipper Topor-Stanley praised his side and he rated their chances of booking a spot in the final when they host FC Seoul in two weeks.
“It was a very tough test for us,” he said.
“But a clean sheet away from home, I’ll take that any day.
“I’m just proud of the boys, their work rate was phenomenal.
“I think it will be a whole different ball game at Parramatta Stadium. These clubs in Asian aren’t used to travelling 10 hours to Australia.
“So in front of our home fans, we’ll take a lot of confidence into the game.”
© 2014 AAP
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One of the biggest games in the history of Hyundai A-League clubs, Western Sydney Wanderers FC have the chance to lay a platform for qualification into the final while Seoul have unfinished business in this competition. What a game this will be. Here’s everything you need to know from our journos in Seoul and Sydney.
FC Seoul: Sang-Hoon Yoo, Du-Ri Cha, Jin-Kyu Kim, Hyo-Jin Choi, Osmar Barba, Woong-Hee Lee, Myong-Jin Ko, Yo-Han Ko, Sang Hyup Lee, Everton Santos, Hee-Seong Park, Kwang-Min Ko, Yong-Dae Kim, Hyun-Tae Choi, Sergio Escudero, Mauricio Molina, Joo-Young Kim, Il-Lok Yun.
Wanderers: Ante Covic, Daniel Mullen, Daniel Alessi, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Antony Golec, Brendan Hamill, Alusine Fofanah, Mateo Poljak, Yianni Perkatis, Jason Trifiro, Iacopo La Rocca, Kwabena Appiah, Labinot Haliti, Vitor Saba, Mark Bridge, Golgol Mebrahtu, Dean Bouzanis, Steve Kuzmanovski
Broadcast coverage in Australia: Fox Sports 3, Wednesday, September 17 at 8pm (kick off 8.30pm)
What the Korean experts say
Lee Yong-hun, editor of Goal.com in Korea says: FC Seoul are flying these days, they’re using rotation but still winning most of their matches…everyone is showing good form so it’s difficult to pick who will start [versus Western Sydney Wanderers]. They will be well prepared against the Wanderers.
Strength: Defence. Choi has tweaked Seoul’s formation this season, which has seen them play three in defence with wing-backs patrolling the flanks. Against Pohang in the last-eight, Seoul did not concede over two matches, plus extra time in the second leg, eventually prevailing on penalties.
Defender Osmar Barba, who was signed from Buriram United before this season, has been utilised as a defensive midfielder and the 192-centimetre Spaniard is critical to Choi’s set-up. In their past five games in all competitions, Seoul have conceded two goals.
The three-man defence is very stable. In the early stage of the season, they had a transitional period but now all the players seem to understand how to defend. Against Pohang in the [ACL] quarter-final, Seoul did not concede a goal in 210 minutes.”
Weakness: Attack. With Montenegro international Dejan Damjanovic having left Seoul at the end of last season for the Chinese Super League, Choi doesn’t have a top-line striker at his disposal. Damjanovic scored over 10 goals per season in his six years with Seoul, including 31 in 42 matches when they won the 2012 K League championship. Seoul have also lost midfielder Ha Dae-sung to China – he plays alongside Damjanovic at Beijing Guoan – with the 29-year-old having been a regular creator and scorer of goals.
Young South Korean winger Yun Il-lok is leading Seoul’s scoring charts on both the domestic and continental fronts but is unavailable due to Asian Games commitments. Seoul are in the bottom half of the K League in terms of goals scored.
Key player in attack would be [Mauricio] Molina. He did not play at all until June due to a knee injury but came back in latter half of the season to prove his worth. He’s currently the highest-paid player in K League. He’s 34 years old so he’s not strong as before, but his excellent free-kick ability is still a danger to opponents.”
Coach: Choi Yong-soo is a former South Korea international having played 69 games for the Taegeuk Warriors. The ex-striker made his name with Seoul during their Lucky-Goldstar days, playing 111 league matches for 44 goals.
After taking over as a caretaker coach in April, Choi was given the job permanently before the successful 2012 season. The 41-year-old is a pragmatist, who has generally made his team hard to beat rather than exciting to watch.
Route to goal
With a back three, Seoul can be caught out behind their wing-backs when they push forward. Long-range shooting could also help Tony Popovic’s Wanderers, as it could force Seoul’s three central defenders out of position as they look to close down efforts on goal.
Seoul’s scoring troubles will make the first goal crucial because if Western Sydney take the lead in South Korea, the home side may struggle to break down the Wanderers’ well-organised defence. The Wanderers have scored in every ACL match so far and should back themselves to do so again.
Wanderers will look to exploit the space out wide, especially with the pace of Kwabena Appiah on the counter attack.
The Wanderers are likely to sit with the same game plan that has worked so well so far, sit back deep and try and hit the home side on the break, although the defence will be kept busy by the likes of Everton Santos and Sergio Escudero.
It promises to be a tasty battle in the middle of the park with Wanderers’ hardman Iacopo La Rocca likely to be tasked with shackling Seoul’s game-breaker Mauricio Molina.
Happily for the Wanderers there was no repeat of the frosty reception they received when they touched down in China for the quarter-final against Guangzhou. Tony Popovic’s side have been made to feel very welcome in the Korean capital but that is likely to change come kick-off on Wednesday night. It’s the first time these two clubs have ever met.
Who’s been in the spotlight this week?
He’s an unsung hero of the Wanderers outfit but much of the focus for this clash will be on the versatile Labinot Haliti. With first-choice strikers Tomi Juric and Brendon Santalab unavailable through suspension, the 28-year-old will have the responsibility of leading the attack and will have to get through a mountain of work, especially if the visitors don’t have too much possession.
Mistake or master-stroke?
It could be a master-stroke for Tony Popovic to unleash Vitor Saba from the start for the first time, with the Brazilian getting stronger with every outing and he may have the key to unlock the FC Seoul defence for that precious away goal.
It could be a mistake for Seoul to underestimate the visitors’ match-fitness despite being in pre-season, with Popovic getting his squad supremely fit during their recent 10-day camp in Dubai.
Choi Yong-soo’s side have not lost in seven league matches, winning six, including away victories at leaders Jeonbuk Motors and reigning champions Pohang Steelers. Seoul also overcame Pohang in the quarter-finals of the ACL. They defeated Incheon United 3-1 on Saturday to sit fifth in the K League on 41 points, 10 adrift of Jeonbuk with seven games remaining.
Despite being deep in their pre-season the Wanderers have still found ways to get results, producing a couple of superb performances to see off Guangzhou Evergrande in the quarter-finals. A recent 10-day training camp in Dubai will ensure they will be well prepared for this one.
Lee says: Western Sydney should be more adventurous in the away game and be stable at home. An away goal could be decisive like last year’s ACL final. Guangzhou Evergrande scored two goals in Seoul to draw 2-2 and then drew 1-1 at home to seal their first ACL title.”
Greco says: Out of contention for the K-League title, FC Seoul have been able to put most of their focus into the ACL and they will fancy their chances of making back-to-back finals after finding form at the right time. I’m tipping 2-1. But the Wanderers have scored in every one of their ACL games so far and it would be no surprise if they kept that impressive run going.
It might not be enough to get them a win in this leg, but taking an away goal back to Parramatta in two-week’s time could be just as invaluable.
Source : Football Federation Austrália
September 16, 2014 – 8:46PM
Venue: Seoul World Cup Stadium
Kick-off: Wednesday, 7.30pm (8.30pm, Sydney time)
TV: Live, Fox Sports 3
The key contests:
Nikolai Topor-Stanley v Sergio Escudero
Topor-Stanley has become the Wanderers’ leader in defence in the absence of former captain Michael Beauchamp and the injured Matthew Spiranovic, and will have to be at his best to contain Escudero. The Japanese striker can play in a deeper role as well as up-front and his movement may cause problems for Topor-Stanley.
Iacopo La Rocca v Lee Myung-joo
Seoul’s Lee is the leader for assists in the K-League this season and will be pulling the strings of the FC Seoul attacking play on Wednesday night. The Italian enforcer will be given the job of shutting down their attack and will have to keep Lee quiet to achieve a result.
Mark Bridge v Cha Du-ri
Without Brendon Santalab or Tomi Juric, Mark Bridge will be relied on more than ever to score and will have to go into combat with the veteran South Korean international, Cha Du-ri, down the left flank. Bridge will probably be given freedom to cut inside more and will force the former Celtic man out of his comfort zone on the right flank.
Source : The Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 16 April 2014 at 7:30pm
Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Central Coast Mariners host Seoul on matchday five of the 2014 AFC Champions League at Bluetongue Stadium on Wednesday April 16 at 7.30pm AEST.
Played: 1, Wins: Mariners 0, Seoul 1, Draws: 0
Seoul 2-0 Mariners, February 25 2014
Past five matches:
Central Coast can take a huge step towards the last 16 of the AFC Champions League with a win over Seoul on Wednesday night. The Mariners are top of Group F through four matches – a point clear of the remaining three teams. With Sanfrecce Hiroshima travelling to Beijing Guoan, the Mariners could be in the last 16 if they win and the match in China is anything but a draw. Phil Moss’ men have a busy run of fixtures as they juggle continental commitments and A-League finals, but they did upset premiers Brisbane Roar 2-0 last time out. Seoul – last year’s Champions League runners-up – are struggling in second bottom in the K-League and are on a five-match winless run ahead of their trip to Australia.
The big issue:
Mariners – just what does Moss do with his squad for the first of three matches in eight days? With an elimination final at home to Adelaide United on Saturday, his selections will be key to have his team performing at close to their best in both matches. He has juggled his squad well so far so expect the likes of Kim Seung-Yong and Matt Simon – who both played no part in the win over the Roar – to feature. A trip to Japan awaits on April 23 before a potential A-League semi-final just days later.
Seoul – can Choi Yong-Soo’s men regain some confidence after a poor start to the season? They appear a long way from the team that finished fourth in the league last campaign and went close to winning the Champions League, with just win victory in their opening eight league matches. They are struggling to score goals and conceding plenty, and a visit to the Central Coast is a massive ask to lead to a turnaround.
The game breaker:
Kim Seung-Yong – the South Korean attacker missed the trip to Brisbane after hurting his hamstring against Perth Glory the week prior. With a meeting against one of his former clubs awaiting, Kim is likely to play a part after the injury was described as minor. The 29-year-old has the quality to cause problems in the attacking third and the Mariners will need him to have a big influence if they are to claim yet another win.
Prediction: Mariners 1-0 Seoul
In an even group, a win would be a huge boost to either team, but one comes in having tasted victory regularly over the past month as the other has struggled. The Mariners have won six of their past eight, while Seoul have just one victory since the start of March. Choi’s side have quality and South Korea international Yun Il-Lok could help them to a much-needed win. Moss hailed his side’s tactical flexibility after their win over Brisbane and, with a victory potentially sending them through, Central Coast may edge Seoul regardless of the personnel they use.
Source : Football Federation Australia
Published on Tuesday, 01 October 2013 22:54
Tehran – FC Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo has sounded a note of cautious optimism ahead of Wednesday’s encounter in Iran against Estehglal as the Korean champions look to seal their spot in this year’s AFC Champions League final.
Seoul put themselves into a strong position to become the fifth consecutive Korean team to reach the final after goals on either side of the interval from Dejan Damjanovic and Go Yo-han gave them a 2-0 advantage in the first leg of the semi-final in Seoul a week ago.
While he is wary of the challenge that Esteghlal will pose when they play in front of their fans at the Azadi Stadium, Choi is still confident that his team will get the job done in Tehran.
“We are very glad to be here especially as we are representing Korean football in this competition,” said the former Korea Republic international striker.
“I have asked my players to prepare well for this match. It is true that we won the first leg but the altitude in Tehran is different from Seoul and of course the time zone difference might cause us some difficulties.
“We know that Esteghlal are a strong side but we are here to beat them again and to take a step closer to winning this year’s trophy.
“We could have scored even more goals in Korea and Esteghlal were lucky to concede just twice. I believe in my player’s abilities and I’m confident that they can fulfil my expectations.”
Despite his side’s two-goal advantage, Choi insisted that they will not be sitting back to try and defend their lead.
“We know if we concede the first goal, the rest of the match could be a nightmare for us so we will make sure that we go out there and attack. I am pretty sure that both sides will put out an offensive performance,” said the FC Seoul coach.
“We know the stadium will be most probably filled up but fortunately most of our players are very experienced and they won’t be affected by the huge crowd. I think the rest of our team who have not previously played in such a big venue will enjoy a unique experience.”
Esteghlal will miss the experienced duo of Javad Nekounam and Andranik Teymourian, who are both suspended, but Choi felt that their absence could present his team with a different sort of problem.
“Those two are very good and influential players in midfield but on the other hand the fact that they are sidelined for tomorrow’s encounter might prove to be a negative for us because they will probably be replaced by two young players who we do not have much knowledge or information about,” he said.
While Esteghlal coach Amir Ghalanoei has advised his players to stay focussed on the match and to refrain from spending time on the internet or social media, Choi is of a different mindset.
“I have never told my boys not to surf the web ahead of important matches. In fact I have even advised them to stay in touch with our fans,” the 40-year-old concluded.