Al Sadd, Suwon reach Asian semifinals
Mato Neretljak's extra-time penalty led South Korean club Suwon Bluewings to a 2-1 victory at Iranian side Zobahan on Wednesday to reach the Asian Champions League semifinals where it will meet Al Sadd, which advanced despite losing 2-1 to Sepahan.
Zobahan led after 50 minutes through midfielder Mohammad Ghazi before defender Yang Sang-min headed home a 78th-minute equalizer to send the quarterfinal match at the Foolad Shahr Stadium in Isfahan into extra time.
Neretljak capped the visitors' rally by scoring the 99th-minute penalty winner to clinch a 3-2 aggregate victory after the pair had drawn 1-1 in the first leg.
Suwon coach Yoon Sung-hyo said he felt his team came into the second leg with a better understanding of how to beat Zobahan.
''In Korea, we had many chances but failed to convert them into goals. One reason was that we did not know enough about Zobahan,'' Yoon said. ''My players put a lot of effort into the game for the win. For us, I don't care which team we face in the semis. We've got sufficient self-confidence and abilities to make it to the final.''
Zobahan coach Mansour Ebrahimzadeh admitted he left the stadium frustrated that last season's finalists had thrown away the chance to reach the last four this time around.
''We lost the game on a day that we knew what we had to do,'' he said. ''We tightened all the gaps, created many chances but came out losers. It was unbelievable how we lost the game. A team who loses discipline and plays emotionally faces problems in the game like we did.''
In Doha, Al Sadd became only the second Qatari team to advance as far as the semifinals of the competition when it did just enough to get past Sepahan 4-2 on aggregate. Umm-Salal was the first when it lost in the 2009 semis.
The Iranians had beaten Al Sadd 1-0 in the first leg but were penalized for fielding an ineligible player and the Qatar club was awarded a 3-0 victory.
Knowing it had to a huge deficit to make up, Sepahan pressed from the very start. Two first-half goals from Emad Mohammed and Hassan Jafari closed the gap and raised the possibility the club could still advance.
However, Mamadou Niang's late strike ensured Al Sadd advanced.
''The first thing is to feel very happy. The first objective was qualification and we did it,'' Al Sadd coach Jorge Fossati said.
The Uruguayan acknowledged his side was to some degree fortunate to advance considering how well Sepahan played.
''I think they started very well. We tried to pass and play a normal game,'' he said. ''Unfortunately, the first shot from them was a goal. I think our team did not know how to control the emotional part of the game after that.
''Some people think it would be easy for Al Sadd after the AFC decision. I know that for many people playing with a 3-0 lead looks easy but it was not easy. At (this) level it's never easy.''
Sepahan coach Luka Bonacic praised his team for never giving up, even after the club was penalized following the first leg.
''Congratulations to my players. They played their hearts out,'' he said. ''But I have to say rules are rules. We won twice but because of the competition rules, we go out. It was like going to Rome and not seeing the Pope.''