Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were crowned the 2016 AFC Champions League winners on Saturday night as a 1-1 draw with inaugural champions Al Ain earned Choi Kang-hee’s side a 3-2 aggregate victory and a place at December’s finals of the FIFA Club World Cup.
Han Kyo-won gave Jeonbuk the lead on the night, and extended the K League Classic side’s advantage following their 2-1 first leg win, in the 30th minute before Lee Myung-joo levelled for Al Ain four minutes later.
But a missed penalty by Brazilian striker Douglas in the dying minutes of the first half and a resolute defensive showing in the second half by the 2006 winners was enough to seal Jeonbuk a second AFC Champions League crown.
Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic made one change from the team that lost the first leg, bringing in Douglas in place of Mohamed Abdulrahman while Jeonbuk made two changes, with Lee Dong-gook replacing Kim Shin-wook and Lim Jong-eun making way Cho Sung-hwan.
Trailing by a goal from the opening game in Jeonju, it came as little surprise that Al Ain started aggressively, Caio narrowly failing to connect with Danilo Asprilla’s low cross before Omar Abdulrahman’s header minutes later was saved at point blank range by Kwoun Sun-tae.
Midway through the half Douglas’ speared effort from distance was pushed away by Kwoun and the Brazilian was again causing problems in the 28th minute when his overhead attempt following Caio’s cross flew back across the face of goal to safety.
Despite their dominance, however, Al Ain went a goal behind on the half hour mark. Han Kyo-won, an early substitute for the injured Ricardo Lopes, side footed the ball home from close range following Lee Jae-sung’s corner to send the Jeonbuk bench into raptures.
But four minutes later Al Ain were level when Lee Myung-joo’s scuffed volley bounced into the turn before beating Kwoun to his right.
The goal gave the home side a boost and it seemed it was only a matter of time before Al Ain would add to their tally. Kwoun again saved from Douglas before Lee’s weak effort from the edge of the area rolled through to the Jeonbuk keeper.
With two minutes remaining in the half, Al Ain were given a gilt edged opportunity to take the lead on the night and level the scores on aggregate when Asprilla was brought down in the area by Kim Hyun-gil only for Douglas to stroke his penalty over the bar. To make matters worse, Dalic was sent to the stands by referee Ryuji Sato soon after.
Al Ain kept pushing for the goal that would level the scores across the two games as the second half played out: Ismail Ahmed headed over the bar, Caio shot just wide and Asprilla forced Kwoun into action while, 15 minutes from time, Douglas’ shot was pushed away by the Jeonbuk goalkeeper.
Kwoun was his side’s saviour again nine minutes from time when he kept out Ibrahim Diaky’s close-range drive, and Jeonbuk closed out the game to take the trophy back to Korea Republic.