Kashiwa Reysol became the second J.League club in as many days to exit the AFC Champions League at the hands of a South Korean outfit, and continued the abymsal record of Japanese sides taking on K-League teams in the Round of 16, which now reads seven contests and six losses.
A disappointingly small crowd at the Big Crown was treated to an enthralling tie, a first-half surprisingly ending goalless but showing many signs of the drama that would unfold in the second period. The opening forty-five minutes were notable mainly for Ulsan’s almost total domination, the Sun Kings having no answer to the aerial threat posed by Kim Shin-Wook who won headers at will, while Juan Velez, combative in midfield, broke up Reysol attacks with ease, providing a platform for the livewire Lee Keun-Ho to attack in the channels. Jorge Wagner was guilty of cheaply giving away possession of the ball, and provided little support for Daisuke Nasu as he was all too frequently drawn into the centre of midfield. Fortunately for Reysol, Ulsan could not make their superiority tell, Lee and Kim Seung-Yong in particular unable to find the finishes that their side deserved.
It came as little surprise that the Tigers opened the score, but it owed much to shabby defending from Reysol, arriving shortly after Go Seul-Ki had rattled the crossbar. Nasu, in possession 35 yards from goal, attempted to play a crossfield pass to teammate Hidekazu Otani, but merely succeeded in presenting the ball to the feet of Lee Keun-Ho, inviting the South Korean international to advance and to subsequently square into the penalty area. Kim Shin-Wook’s header found the bottom left corner, but his goalscoring duties were made considerably easier by neither Tatsuya Masushima or Naoya Kondo taking responsibility for challenging the striker as he rose to nod home from just six yards.
The goal, however, roused Reysol to action for the first time since the opening moments of the match, and they spent much of the remaining 35 minutes dictating possession and territory. After Naoya Kondo had first gone close with a swerving shot which evaded the right upright by inches, and then Junya Tanaka had turned superbly inside the Ulsan 18-yard box and seen his low cross drift past the outstretched boot of Leandro Domingues, Tanaka himself had a superb opportunity to bring his side level. Played onside by Kim Young-Sam, the pass from Leandro Domingues carved the defence open and left the striker with only Kim Seung-Gyu to beat. This he did with aplomb, but then his attempted finish was hit straight at Lee Jae-Seong on the goalline, when a shot placed either side of the right-back would have resulted in an equaliser.
Fortunately for Tanaka, Reysol would be level two minutes later, and it was a goal defined by its simplicity. Taking a throw on the right ten yards from the Ulsan goalline, Tatsuya Masukawa launched the ball into the penalty area, Leandro Domingues heading first time beyond Kim Seung-Gyu.
Having made their pressure tell, the visitors would suffer a body blow, conceding a goal in controversial circumstances on 70 minutes. Substitute Maranhao split the Reysol back line with a pass to Lee Ho, and Kondo’s attempt to put the the midfielder’s pull back for a corner snuck inside Sugeno’s left post. Referee Mohamed Al Zarooni awarded the goal in the face of furious protests from several Reysol players who were convinced that the ball had not fully crossed the line, and they were duly waved away.
Now pressing for a second equaliser, Reysol always risked being caught on the counter-attack, and Lee Keun-Ho was given the run of the Reysol half as Ulsan broke quickly from defending a corner. With a third goal almost certain to put the tie beyond the reach of Nelsinho’s side, he took the ball into the penalty area, but Sugeno saved at the forward’s feet to ensure that only a single goal still separated the sides.
With five minutes of normal time to go, Masakatsu Sawa, on for Hideakzu Otani, was given the chance to score his side’s second, but saw his shot blocked, Leandro Domingues’s initial effort pushed out by Kim Seung-Gyu and just beyond Masato Kudo following up.
Lee Keun-Ho killed the game off shortly after. Go Seul-Ki drove a pass to the feet of Kim Shin-Wook, and his delightful flick was volleyed first time into the bottom left corner. A thumping Junya Tanaka strike to reduce the margin to one goal in stoppage time came too late to serve as anything other than consolation.
Reysol, having suffered the same fate as Nagoya Grampus yesterday, also face the same challenges as their J.League counterparts in domestic competition, with manager Nelsinho needing to coax consistent performances from his team to ensure they rise up the table. A further headache for the Brazilian may present itself when his players return from the international break, as star right-back Hiroki Sakai has been heavily linked with a move to Bundesliga club Hannover 96 and any transfer involving the attack-minded 22-year old would inevitably have negative consequences on the prospects of Champions League football in 2013.
|Ulsan Hyundai||Kashiwa Reysol|
|Kim Shin-Wook||54||Leandro Domingues||67|
|Naoya Kondo (O.G.)||71||Junya Tanaka||90+1|
|Kim Shin-Wook||58||Hiroki Sakai||21|