Skipper Sasa Ognenovski was the hero as his opening goal led Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma of Korea Republic to a 3-1 win over Iran's Zob Ahan to claim the AFC Champions League final today, booking their spot at FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010.
That opener came after a Korean throw-in created confusion in the goal-mouth, allowing the Australian defender to snatch the ball and score 29 minutes in. The goal provided a platform for the Korea Republic side to build upon and eight minutes after the break, defender Cho Byung-Kuk gave them a two goal cushion rising to head in from a corner.
Having threatened a fight back, Zob Ahan were given hope when Mohammadreza Khala found the net in the 67th minute after goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong could only parry a preceding shot. However Seongnam restored their two-goal lead through Kim Cheol-Ho who tucked away a rebound in the 83rd minute to seal a deserved victory.
Seongnam coach Shin Tae-Yong praised Ognenovski, who played a part in all three goals, saying: "I'm very, very happy. It's a great feeling. I can not express in a few words."
"When I was in Australia, I stayed with him for one year. So I really wanted him when I became the Seongnam coach. He struggled last season, but he integrated himself really well with the Korean football. He is the best stopper in the K-League," said Shin.
"If it was a home-and-away final, I'm sure we had had a tough time, because of a long journey to Iran. It was a big element that we played in Tokyo," said Shin, 40.
Ognenovski was forced to head
Seongnam doubled their lead seven minutes into the second period when
Zob Ahan keeper
Jung then denied Ghasem Hadadifar low to his left after Castro picked out his run at the back post before Seongnam clinched the title with eight minutes to go when Molina's shot fortunately deflected into the path of Kim, who made no mistake.
Zob Ahan coach Mansour Ebrahimzadehy said: "We lost only five goals in 11 games, but we lost three in one game today. We missed so many chances as we made many mistakes."
"We should have checked number 11 (Ognenovski) more severely. We couldn't do it enough. That's why we lost those goals," he said.
The AFC Champions League winners will now compete in next month's FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, where they will face the winners of the tie between hosts Al Wahda and OFC champions Hekari United for the chance to play Inter Milan in the semi-finals.
Seongnam are Korea Republic's most successful club with seven K-League titles and they have made regular appearances in Asia's club competitions, winning the Asian Club Championship in 1995. They also had relative success in AFC Champions League, reaching the final in 2004 and the semi-finals in 2007.
Zob Ahan had knocked out some of Asia's biggest clubs on the way to the Asian show-piece game, including holders Pohang Steelers, Uzbek champions Bunyodkor, two-time winners Al Ittihad and Saudi giants Al Hilal in the semi-final. Today's crown was a third title for the Korea Republic, following triumphs by Jeonbuk Motors in 2006 and Pohang Steelers in 2009.