ULSAN HYUNDAI thrashed Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli 3-0 on Saturday to lift their first AFC Champions League trophy and become the third South Korean club in four years to be crowned kings of Asia.
Goals from Kwak Tae-Hwi, Rafinha and Kim Seung- Yong raised the roof at Ulsan’s home stadium and ensured that Kim Ho-Gon’s side followed in the footsteps of Pohang Steelers and Seongnam Ilhwa, winners in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Al Ahli rarely troubled the hosts’ defence throughout the 90 minutes and in the end Ulsan were comfortable winners, to the delight of an impressive crowd of 42,153.
Ulsan started the game brightly, with Rafinha and Kwak both going close in the opening 10 minutes in what was threatening to be a onesided affair even at such an early stage.
In the 13th minute, Ulsan claimed the lead their impressive start deserved when club captain Kwak ambled up from defence to meet Kim Seung-Yong’s free kick with a firm header.
Juan Estiven Velez tried his luck from long range on two occasions as Ulsan sought to extend their advantage and Al Ahli continued to struggle, but both attempts were well off target.
Al Ahli offered little serious threat in attack and, with four minutes left in the half, Kim Shin-Wook hooked his attempt wide as Ulsan sought what was turning out to be an elusive second goal.
That though changed midway through the second half when Velez’s ball was headed across goal by Kim Shin- Wook and into the path of Rafinha, who scored his fifth goal in five Champions League games since arriving from J-League side Gamba Osaka.
And, with 15 minutes to go, Kim Seung-Yong added a deserved third for the dominant Ulsan when his left-foot drive from a tight angle gave Al Ahli goalkeeper Abdullah Al Muaiouf little chance.
Ulsan’s fans celebrated wildly after the win which also secures their team a berth next month’s FIFA Club World Cup finals in Japan.