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Korea, Iran teams make AFC Champions League semis

SoccerNews in UEFA Champions League 22 Sep 2010

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South Korea’s most successful club Seongnam Ilhwa held their nerve to make the AFC Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday, but title-holders Pohang Steelers were sent packing.

Seongnam, who have won seven K-League crowns, took a healthy 4-1 first leg lead into their clash with fellow Koreans Suwon Bluewings.

But a first-half goal from winger Yeom Ki-Hun and a second-half strike from the impressive Lee Sang-Ho tested their mettle at the Suwon World Cup Stadium.

In the end, Seongnam’s defence held up under the pressure and they went through 4-3 on aggregate.

A record four Korean clubs were competing in the quarter-finals, but two are now out with Pohang joining Suwon on the sidelines.

The Steelers went into their match chasing a 2-1 deficit from the first leg against Iran Pro League leaders Zobahan and looked like they might overturn it when Kim Jae-Sung pounced in the 10th minute to put them level on aggregate.

With the deadlock unbroken late in the second-half, it seemed destined for extra-time until Mohamad Reza Khalatbari stunned the hosts in the 80th minute to put his team into the last four.

The only sour point for Zobahan was the dismissal of Mehdi Rajabzadeh three minutes from time, meaning he will miss the semi-final against either Saudi champions Al Hilal or Qatar League winners Al Gharafa, who play later.

Hilal, who have been consistently impressive under Belgian great Eric Gerets, visit the Doha club on the back of their 3-0 win in front of more than 53,000 fans at the King Fahd International Stadium last week.

They are expected to welcome back Christian Wilhelmsson to the starting line-up after the Sweden winger missed the first leg through suspension, while Gharafa will be looking to Iraqi striker Younes Mahmoud to produce some magic.

In the other quarter-final, South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors, the 2006 champions, face a tough mission in Saudi Arabia against Al Shabab, who beat the K-League champions 2-0 in the first leg.

Shabab have been boosted by the signing of Uruguayan striker Juan Manuel Olivera, who helped Universidad de Chile reach the semi-finals of this year?s Copa Libertadores, and he will be hoping to add to his clinical first leg goal.

Jeonbuk’s loss to Shabab was their sixth in eight games in all competitions, a surprising slump following nine straight victories.

But they remain a fierce attacking threat on their day, with Korean legend Lee Dong-Gook keen to make up for his close-range misses last week.

The final of Asia’s top club competition is played at Tokyo’s National Stadium on November 13, with the winner qualifying for the lucrative FIFA Club World Cup.

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