Park Jin-seong of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (C) celebrates his goal against Chiangrai United in their Group H match at the Asian Football Confederation Champions League at Lokomotiv Stadium in Tashkent on Wednesday, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (Korea Professional Football League)
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors have become the first South Korean team to secure a knockout spot at the top continental club football tournament.
Jeonbuk defeated Chiangrai United 3-1 in their Group H match at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League at Lokomotiv Stadium in Tashkent on Wednesday (local time).
Jeonbuk improved to 13 points on four wins and a draw to secure the top spot in the group with one match remaining against Gamba Osaka on Saturday.
The AFC Champions League expanded from 32 teams to 40 teams this year. The 10 group winners, and the three-best runners-up from each of the West and the East regions, will advance to the round of 16.
Defending champions Ulsan Hyundai FC, Pohang Steelers and Daegu FC are three other K League clubs in action at the AFC tournament. Ulsan have won four straight matches to sit atop Group F, while Daegu are in second place in Group I with one match to go.
Pohang finished Group G play in second place after a 1-1 draw against Nagoya Grampus in Bangkok. They're currently the top runner-up in the East Region.
For Jeonbuk, Mo Barrow opened the scoring only nine minutes in. Then in the 20th minute, Hong Jeong-ho's free kick rang the crossbar and went in off the back of goalkeeper Apirak Worawong to give Jeonbuk a 2-0 lead.
Park Jin-seong's 35th-minute goal put Jeonbuk ahead by 3-0, and Chiangrai United only got one back on a second-half penalty.
All group matches are being played in centralized locations to minimize traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. The AFC announced earlier this week that all knockout matches, through the championship final, will be played over one leg, rather than the traditional home-and-away legs, due to coronavirus concerns. (Yonhap)