Pohang Steelers 2-0 Chonburi (18/02/2012)
Pohang: Korea Republic's Pohang Steelers successfully negotiated the first hurdle in their quest for a fourth Asian club title after securing a place in the Group Stage of the 2012 AFC Champions League with a 2-0 win over Thailand's Chonburi on Saturday.
Hwang Jin-sung set the 2009 AFC Champions League champions on their way after 28 minutes at the Steelyard before Park Sun-ho's 70th minute header secured the win for the 1997 and 1998 Asian Club Championship winners.
Pohang will now take their place in Group E alongside 2008 champions Gamba Osaka of Japan, Uzbekistan champions Bunyodkor and play-off winners Adelaide United of Australia, who beat Indonesia's Persipura Jayapura 3-0 on Thursday.
"The weather was cold, but we were able to win," said Pohang coach Hwang Sun-hong, who was part of the Pohang squad which won the back-to-back Asian Club Championship titles in 1997 and 1998.
"Chonburi were very fast as we expected and played very well. It was a very good game and we were able to get the right result."
After earning a chance to return to the AFC Champions League with a third-place finish in the 2011 K-League play-offs after missing out last season, Hwang Jin-sung's free-kick from the edge of the Chonburi penalty area set the hosts on their way midway through the first-half.
Both sides created several chances and the Pohang defence was tested on several occasions by a spirited Chonburi side, but the resolute home backline stood firm and Park's header with 20 minutes remaining secured qualification.
"The match allowed us to analyse our preparations and we found some minor technical problems which we hope to change for the upcoming matches," added coach Hwang.
Chonburi coach Withaya Laohakul highlighted the influential role played by Pohang's Ghana international Derek Asamoah and also felt that the climactic conditions in Korea contributed in the Thai Premier League runners-up's failure to follow up their maiden AFC Champions League appearance in 2008.
"I am disappointed with the result but the weather was a big problem. The cold weather meant the players were not able to move as freely as normal," he said.
"We also encountered the same problems as most teams from Thailand as we struggled to deal with crosses and high balls from Pohang.
"We prepared well, and even though we lost, I am happy we had this opportunity."