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3 Korean clubs finish atop groups

Three of the four South Korean K-League clubs have reached the knockout stage of the ongoing Asian Football Confederation Champions League, each of them securing home games in the next round.

FC Seoul, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Suwon Samsung Bluewings finished with the best records in Groups F, G and H, respectively.

Jeju United, the fourth K-League club in the competition, ended in third place in Group E after Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory Wednesday.

Only the top two clubs from each of the eight groups qualify for the one-and-done round of 16 at the premier continental club competition.

Jeonbuk and Suwon secured No. 1 seeds with wins on Tuesday. FC Seoul tied Hangzhou Greentown 1-1 late Wednesday, but got the No. 1 seed after Nagoya Grampus fell to Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates 3-1 in Abu Dhabi early Thursday, Korean time.

Before their final group matches, Seoul and Nagoya had been even at 10 points, with Nagoya holding the tie-breaker in head-to-head competition. Seoul, however, finished with 11 points and Nagoya ended up with 10.

Seoul is now undefeated in four games under interim head coach Choi Yong-soo, who replaced Hwangbo Kwan late last month.

Jeonbuk, as the Group G leader, will host Tianjin Teda, the No. 2 seed from Group E, in the next round on May 24. Suwon, the No. 1 seed from Group H, will take on Nagoya, the second seed from Group F, in a home game on May 25.

Also on May 25, FC Seoul will host Kashima Antlers, which ranked second in Group H.

Choi Kang-hee, head coach of Jeonbuk, said the goal throughout the group stage had been to secure the top seed.

“It’s been difficult playing both K-League and Champions League matches, but this victory gives us a favorable schedule (with the home game),” Choi said. “We rested some exhausted players (Tuesday), and little-used guys made the most of the opportunity. Things are going as planned and injuries or fatigue won’t be an issue this year.”

Suwon coach Yoon Sung-hyo said it was “important” for his team to earn the top seed.

“Our young players exceeded expectations and I saw the potential of the team (during group stage),” Yoon said.

Suwon is looking forward to playing at home with good reasons: It has not lost in its last 25 home games at the AFC competition, with 21 wins and four draws. 

(Yonhap News)
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