Adelaide United FC bowed out of the 2010 AFC Champions League, after going down 3-2 to K-League champions Jeonbuk Motors in an AFC Champions League epic at Hindmarsh Stadium.
On a rollercoaster night of emotions, the Reds came back from a goal down twice to almost pull off another memorable ACL victory at home, the match eventually decided by star Jeonbuk striker Dong Gook Lee’s header three minutes before the end of extra time.
Without the suspended Henrique, Jeonbuk’s other Brazilian Eninho did the damage, the playmaker netting the opening goal in the 38th minute before putting Jeonbuk back in front in the 88th minute after Robert Cornthwaite had headed home a 78th minute equaliser.
Reds striker Sergio van Dijk then found the back of the net in the final minute of regulation time to square the game for the second time, but despite the Reds playing on adrenalin and emotion with a parochial home crowd behind them, Jeonbuk had the final say in extra time.
It was a brave and courageous effort from United, with goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic providing some all too familiar late heroics, to nearly see the game get decided by a penalty shootout.
While obviously inconsolable, Reds ACL Head Coach Joe Mullen could not have been prouder of his team’s ability to fight its way back into the contest.
“It’s hard to take. I thought it was a good game of football, the team did exceptionally well, they showed great character to come back twice…I thought they did their club, their city, the Hyundai A-League proud tonight,” Mullen said.
“We lost the game and it didn’t go our way, but I take my hat off to this group of boys, I thought they did extremely well.”
“Not to score more than twice cost us, but like I said before, they (Jeonbuk) are a good team. I thought we did very well, and in the end it came down to a bit of lottery, the game could have gone either way.”
With so much to play for, the opening 10 minutes was typically cagey, the first shot on target taking 25 minutes when Jeonbuk’s Taeuk Choi sent an effort that required a sharp low down save from Galekovic.
The chance seemed to trigger the game into life as opportunities started to come at both ends.
United’s first chance, and arguably its best of the half, came in the 29th minute when Lucas Pantelis decided to try his luck despite having an unmarked van Dijk to his left, the midfielder sending his shot straight at Jeonbuk keeper Suntae Kwoun.
Then just as the Reds started to force the issue, Jeonbuk delivered a 38th minute sucker punch as they struck on the counter. Iain Fyfe superbly blocked Taeuk’s effort, but the ball found its way into the path of Eninho at the top of the six yard box, and the Brazilian had plenty of net to aim at as he put it past Galekovic.
Forced to respond, United almost did just before half time, when Cassio’s cross from the left saw Marcos Flores just fail to connect on an attempted glancing header, before the ball ran tantalisingly past Dodd with the open goal beckoning.
Three minutes after the restart Daniel Mullen stung the gloves of Suntae, but again the Jeonbuk keeper managed to keep the ball out.
In the 62nd minute Pantelis was kept out again by an outstretched Suntae, it was to be Pantelis’ final action of the night, as he was replaced by young striker Francesco Monterosso.
The Reds continued to be left frustrated in the front third, until they won a corner in the 78th minute. Prior to Cassio’s set piece, the crowd lifted their volume as if sensing an equaliser was about to arrive, and it did.
Cassio’s corner was met by Cornthwaite who rose above his marker at the near post, to clinically head the ball into the back of the net.
Back on level terms, United was given a scare in the 84th minute as Jeonbuk appeared destined to score, but some quick reflexes from Galekovic and desperate last ditch defending kept it 1-1.
With the game in the balance, the remaining ten minutes of regulation time produced enthralling drama, as Eninho struck again with an unstoppable shot from the top of the penalty area in the 87th minute to seemingly put an end to United’s ACL campaign.
Adelaide looked down and out, with less than a minute to go, the home side came up with a miracle as van Dijk somehow managed to scramble the ball across the line in a congested six yard box from another Cassio corner.
Into the first period of extra time, Cassio came close when he cannoned a free kick onto the crossbar, with the game opening up as both sides chased a winner.
As time ticked away, the fatigue in both camps started to show, although Galekovic was still at his brilliant best to deny the Koreans.
However, arguably Galekovic’s most impressive save of the night led to Jeonbuk putting the nail in the Reds’ coffin, as his world class save saw the ball fall out to the left hand side for Seung-Jo Kang, who sent it to Dong Gook at the far post and the Korean international did the rest.
Van Dijk had one final chance to level the game for a third time as he sent an angled header just wide of the post, but it was not to be as the Reds bowed out of the competition, and Jeonbuk marched into the Quarter Finals.
Adelaide United FC 2 (Cornthwaite 78’, van Dijk 90+4’)
Jeonbuk Motors 3 (Eninho 38’/88’, Dong Gook Lee 117’)
Referee: Abdulrahman Mohammed A M Hussain (Qatar)
Crowd: 12,015 @ Hindmarsh Stadium
Adelaide United line-up: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 4.Iain FYFE, 5.Daniel MULLEN, 6.CASSIO, 7.Lucas PANTELIS (15.Francesco MONTEROSSO 63’), 9.Sergio VAN DIJK, 13.Travis DODD (c), 18.Fabian BARBIERO (17.Michael MARRONE 75’), 24.Marcos FLORES (10.Adam HUGHES 90’), 27.Adam GRIFFITHS
Substitutes not used: 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 14.Scott JAMIESON, 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 23.Joe COSTA
Yellow Cards: Cassio 30’/120’, Dodd 108’
Red Cards: Cassio 120’
Jeonbuk Motors line-up: 1.Suntae KWOUN (gk), 3.Jonghyun SUNG, 5.Sengjun SON, 6.Kyiungsun JIN, 8.ENINHO (29.Kwanghyeon LEE 90+1’), 9.Wooyeon SIM (20.Dong Gook LEE 68’), 11.Tae-euk CHOI, 13.Hoon JUNG (19.Kruno LOVREK 68’), 17.Youhwan LIM, 24.Seung-Jo Kang, 33.Wonjae PARK
Substitutes not used: 18.Kwangjae LEE, 26.Seo Jung Jin, 31.Jungnam HONG (gk)
Yellow Cards: Jonghyun Sung 43’, Youhwan Lim 45’, Eninho 47’, Kyiungsun Jin 90+3’, Suntae Kwoun 90+4’, Seung-Jo Kang 102’
Red Cards: Nil