Hiroshima: Sanfrecce Hiroshima edged closer towards elimination from the 2013 AFC Champions League as Pohang Steelers handed the J.League champions their third straight loss in Group G thanks to a solitary strike from Bae Chun-suk.
Bae struck from close range after 18 minutes to leave Hiroshima without a point at the halfway point of the Group Stage while Hwang Sun-hong’s side secured their first win of the campaign after draws against Bunyodkor and Beijing Guoan.
The win moves Pohang – winners of the AFC Champions League in 2009 – on to five points at the halfway point of the Group Stage while Sanfrecce are bottom of the group.
“It was a very important game for us to move on to the Round of 16, and I am glad we got the result playing away,” said Hwang.
“As a manager, you are never satisfied with your team’s performance even after you win. But our players worked hard to play our own brand of football, which was more important for us rather than thinking of our opponents’ game to make a game plan. That was good today.
“I told our players to defend collectively and they worked hard to pursue that. That’s what I’m happy about too.”
Hajime Moriyasu’s plans were dealt an early blow by the enforced replacement of Toshihiro Aoyama, who suffered a knee injury that led to the introduction of Yojiro Takahagi just 13 minutes into the game.
Five minutes later, Pohang claimed the evening’s only goal. Go Moo-yul surged down the left after receiving a return pass from No Byung-jin and his cross found Bae in position to roll the ball over the line from close range.
Pohang continued to control the tempo throughout the remainder of the half and were unfortunate not to increase their advantage when both Go and No had efforts front long range that were claimed by Hiroshima goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.
Ten minutes into the second half, Shin Jin-ho lifted his effort over the bar from the edge of the area after the Sanfrecce defence had gone to sleep, gifting possession to the visitors only for Shin to miss the target.
The introduction of Mihael Mikic just before the hour mark gave Sanfrecce a much-needed boost, but despite the Croatian midfielder’s creativity down the right side Hiroshima were incapable of unlocking the Pohang defence and the K-League Classic side held on for a comfortable win.
“It is such a shame we lost today as we went into the game aiming to collect three points,” said Moriyasu. “I wasn’t expecting to make a substitution so early in the game, and that may have affected the flow of our game.
“We will play to win all three of our remaining matches, for sure. We know that it is hard for us to qualify for the next stage after losing three matches, but we will keep working hard and put up a challenge for as long as we have the possibility to qualify.”