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ACL Preview: FC Tokyo vs Ulsan Hyundai

After back to back wins against Perth Glory, Ulsan Hyundai look to cement their place at the top of Group F as they prepare to face FC Tokyo who held them to a draw to open the tournament.  Late heroics played a significant part in both matches.  Will the Horangi get out of the blocks early, or will they rely on late heroics once again? KLU's Branko Belan has a look forward to the match.

Match: FC Tokyo vs Ulsan Hyundai
Venue: Education City Stadium
Kickoff: Monday November 30th, 2020; 19:00 KST

Last Time Out

Shanghai Shenhua 1-2 FC Tokyo

The Japanese side could have been in front just minutes into the match, but Diego Oliveira was off the mark.  Following the early goal scoring opportunity, it remained a tight first half between the two sides.  They continued to press, but Leandro's latter strike was also off target.

Oliveira would eventually be carted off due to injury, but Shenhua could not make it count, as Yu Hanchao was denied on a scoring chance.

Leandro would open the scoring just after the hour mark with a swift boot following a good run of play, a strike into the bottom corner, leaving his opposite number with no chance between the sticks.

Shuto Abe put the match further in the Japanese side's favor with a second marker eight minutes from regular time.  Giovanni Moreno would pull one back for Shenhua in the late stages, but it would not be enough, setting up a crucial match with the group stage slowly winding down.



Ulsan Hyundai 2-0 Perth Glory

Prior to kickoff, both clubs paid tribute to the recently deceased Diego Armando Maradona, arguably the greatest to lace up a pair of boots.  Once the match got underway, it was business as usual.

Ulsan Hyundai took another step closer to the knockout stages of the competition with a late salvo courtesy of Kim In-sung and Júnior Negrão, who scored within two minutes of each other late one to seal another important three points for the Horangi.

Carlo Armiento had an opportunity to put his side in front twenty minutes in, but his well struck effort was parried aside by Jo Su-huk.  

Björn Johnsen could have broken the deadlock just before the hour mark, but his header got a slight touch from Tando Velaphi before grazing the post and staying out.

With the clock winding, Ulsan would turn the screws once again.  Júnior was played into space and would lay off for an advancing Kim In-sung, who had no difficulty in slotting the ball squarely into the back of the net for a late advantage.

The Brazilian would be on hand for the team's second only minutes later to seal the victory, benefiting from good work on the right and a slick layoff from Johnsen to slot home from near point blank range.  With the win, Ulsan remain top of Group F with two matchdays left on the docket.


Team News

FC Tokyo

FC Tokyo vaulted themselves into second in the group with their win last time out and will be looking to build on the draw between the sides on Matchday One.  

Manager Kenta Hasegawa was optimistic following the match.

"We applied a lot of pressure on them and had many chances," he said.

"We have two more games left in the group and if we play as well as we did today, we can qualify to the next stage.  We were very excited in the first half and at half-time, I told the players to calm down, so we were more focused in the second half and got the goals we needed."

"We have 22 players, and we need everyone to contribute if we are to continue playing with this style," he finished.

FC Tokyo sit just a point behind their opponents on Monday night. Photo courtesy of AFC.

Shuto Abe also chimed in following the final whistle.

"This was a must-win game, and it required every man to give his all.  It was the kind of ferocious game I haven’t experienced much so it was a good experience,” he commented.

Ulsan Hyundai

The combination of Júnior Negrão and Kim In-sung has proved lethal in the past two matches, and could well be a horse for the squad to ride as they look to close out the group stage and progress to the knockouts.  Late drama has proven wealthy for the Horangi, as they took all of a possible six points from the last pair of matches, solidifying their position atop Group F.

The suo of Júnior Negrão and Kim In-sung could give the Horangi a chance for a deep run.

Several players were rested for the reverse fixture against Perth, notably Dave Bulthuis, who has been a stable component of the back line all season.  With fixtures coming hard and fast, the need for rotation has been necessary, but that could prove fruitful down the line as squad liners who did not see much league action could prove worthy as the Horangi look to make a deep run in the competition.

What to Watch

It was a draw between both sides the last time they met, but Tokyo have the impetus to go for a win knowing they are only three points behind the group leaders.  Shanghai Shenhua are also in the mix, thus making this a must-win fixture for Kim Do-hoon's men.

The past two matches against Perth Glory have presented a tentative appearance from the Korean side, thus, they must make a statement next time out if they are to be considered contenders for a prize they have not garnered since 2012.  A holdover from that squad, Lee Keun-ho returned to the team in 2018, and will surely provide a senior leadership role as the team moves forward in the competition. 


Both teams have a lot at stake, so it could well be another tight affair.  It will come down to nuances.  Both teams have only conceded three goals thus far, but on paper, Ulsan has the firepower to get the job done.  Everything will depend on how they respond in the first half.  If they leave everything to the final ten minutes, it may not be enough.  Kim Do-hoon must go with his best eleven to get all three points from the tie.

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