Pohang Steelers became the only K League club to win its fourth Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) group stage match and advance to the round of 16.
Pohang came from behind to beat Urawa Red Diamonds 2-1 in the fourth leg of the 2023-2024 ACL Group J at Pohang Steel Yard on Monday.
Pohang played the FA (Football Association) Cup semifinals and final back-to-back last week and are set to face Ulsan Hyundai in the ‘East Coast Derby’ this weekend. Pohang made some rotations in the starting lineup and were struck by a counterattack from Urawa in the 36th minute. Ekanit Paya’s cutback pass was followed by Jose Kante’s left-footed shot, which led to the first goal.
Pohang coach Kim Ki-dong brought on Zeca, Kim Jong-woo, and Shim Sang-min after halftime to try to fight back. He also brought on captain Kim Seung-dae in the 14th minute of the second half, and finally succeeded in equalizing in the 21st minute. An opponent’s handball foul gave them a penalty kick opportunity, which Zeca calmly finished.
In the 27th minute of the second half, things changed for both teams. As Pohang launched a counterattack, Urawa’s Takahiro Akimoto brought down Ko Young-jun with a dangerous foul. The referee’s initial decision was a yellow card, but the video assistant referee (VAR) changed it to a red card. However, Pohang also suffered a blow in this situation. Ko Young-jun was hit on the right leg by Akimoto’s tackle and complained of pain and was eventually substituted due to injury.
Pohang’s dramatic winner came in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time, when the substitutes combined to score. Kim Seung-dae dug in on the right side of the penalty box and sent the ball to Munjeon. Goalkeeper Urawa cleared it away, but Kim In-sung, who stepped on the ground in place of Ko Young-joon, slotted it into the back of the net.
The come-from-behind victory extended Pohang’s winning streak to four games in the ACL Group Stage, while Wuhan’s 1-2 reverse in the same group against Hanoi FC clinched an early berth in the round of 16. They now have 12 points, eight away from second-place Urawa, who have four. They will remain atop the group regardless of the outcome of their two remaining matches.
Pohang’s win also means that no K League club has lost or drawn a game in the fourth round of the ACL. The other three teams struggled in Game 4. Jeonbuk Hyundai, who played on the same day, lost 0-2 away to Singaporean club Ryan City Seahawks. They conceded back-to-back goals to Richarlison Djivkovic. They had a penalty kick opportunity in the 45th minute, but Gustavo missed it.
Ulsan and Incheon United, who traveled side by side on July 7, also failed to pick up a point. Incheon fell 1-3 to Shandong Taishan in China, while Ulsan lost 1-2 in 먹튀검증 Malaysia against Johor Darul Ta’zim. The three teams that didn’t pick up a point in the fourth round are not guaranteed a spot in the round of 16. Ulsan and Jeonbuk are second in the group, while Incheon is third.