Ulsan Hyundai, the 2023 K League 1 champions, have advanced to the round of 16 of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL).
Ulsan held Kawasaki Frontale (Japan) to a 2-2 draw at home thanks to a Martin Adam brace in the sixth and final match of the 2023-2024 ACL Group I at the Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan on Wednesday.
With 10 points from three wins, one draw and two losses in the group, Ulsan finished second in Group I behind Kawasaki (5 wins, 1 draw and 16 points) and secured a top-three finish among the top two teams in each of the five East Asian groups.
With a total of 20 clubs competing in five groups, the ACL East Asia Group Stage will see the first-place team from each group and the best three second-place teams advance to the Round of 16.
Among the K League teams, the Pohang Steelers topped Group J (5 wins and 1 draw) and were joined by Ulsan on the day.
Ulsan earned a spot in the round of 16 by finishing with more points than Group H runners-up Melbourne City (Australia – 9 points, +2 goal difference) and Group J runners-up Urawa Reds (Japan – 7 points), who have already completed their group stage.
Current Group F runners-up Jeonbuk Hyundai (P9, Goal Differential +2) welcome Bangkok United (Thailand) to Jeonju World Cup Stadium on March 13 for the final six matches, while Group G runners-up Incheon United (P9, Goal Differential +3) host Caya (Philippines) for the sixth and final match away from home. Both teams also have a chance to advance to the Round of 16.
The ACL Round of 16 will be held next February.
Ulsan had already clinched a spot in the round of 16, but Kawasaki, playing as a “1.5” team just three days after the Sun King Cup final, took the lead in the 17th minute.
Following a pass from Yusuke Segawa, Shin Yamada’s left-footed shot was blocked by Cho Hyun-woo, but the rebounded ball was struck by Daiya Tono with his right foot from the right side of the goal area to open the scoring.
Ulsan, who struggled with Kawasaki’s pressure and flanking attacks, conceded another goal in the 31st minute through Tatsuki Seko.
After trying to turn the tide, Ulsan pulled one back in the 44th minute as Naoto Kamifukumoto, who replaced Jung Sung-ryong as Kawasaki’s starting goalkeeper, was denied by back-to-back saves.
Uhm Won-sang’s ball from the right side of the penalty area hit an opponent and deflected, and Martin-Adam, who was in front of the goal, got a quick header to rattle the net to end the first half at 1-2.
Ulsan then equalized on a penalty kick in the eighth minute of the second half.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) confirmed that opposing defender Yuto Matsunagane tripped Kim Young-kwon as he raced for the ball inside the penalty area, and the penalty kick was awarded to Martin-Adam, who calmly stepped up and slotted it home with his left foot to tie the game. It was Martin-Adam’s fifth goal with the ACL.
Ulsan tried to pull off a late comeback by bringing on Lee In-gyu and Ataru for Rubikson and Kim Min-hyuk in the 24th minute and Bako in the 33rd minute, but had to settle for holding on for a point and a spot in the round of 16. 토토사이트