Beijing: Beijing Guoan ensured their chances of advancing to the Round of 16 of the 2013 AFC Champions League remain in their own hands thanks to a 2-0 win over former champions Pohang Steelers at Workers’ Stadium on Tuesday.
The victory moves Beijing ahead of Pohang in the Group G standings with one round remaining, in which Guoan will meet already eliminated Sanfrecce Hiroshima while Pohang will entertain Bunyodkor.
Three points against the J.League champions will see Beijing advance to the last 16 for the first time since 2010 and Tuesday’s win came courtesy of goals from Joffre Guerron and substitute Shao Jiayi in the second half.
“Today our strategy was to play without strategy,” said Beijing coach Aleksandar Stanojevic.
“In previous games I might have put emphasis on the tactics, but today I told them we have to show our responsibility and obligations to the fans. We went out there to fight and showed our aspiration.
“I haven't been thinking about history. I was reminded of that after the game. I've keep telling my players to relax and don't get too anxious.
“Today the most important factor in our win was not the tactical adjustment but the fighting spirit. They made it and I am grateful to see that. I was very active next to the pitch because I wanted to show everyone that we had to make it work.”
Pohang had the better of a relatively lacklustre opening 45 minutes with Shin Jin-ho’s effort finding the top of the net eight minutes before the interval while three minutes later No Byung-jun’s free kick curled just wide.
The second half was only three minutes old before Beijing took the lead. Guerron played the ball to Freddy Kanoute (pictured), whose return was cut out by Kim Won-il, only for Guerron to reclaim possession and roll the ball weakly beyond Shin Hwa-yong.
Kanoute should have doubled Beijing’s advantage with 18 minutes to go when referee Mohamed Al Zarooni pointed to the penalty spot after Zhang Xizhe was upended in the area by Hwang Ji-soo.
The former Tottenham Hotspur and Seville striker found the back of the net in emphatic fashion only for the referee to order the kick to be retaken for encroachment. Second time around, Kanoute’s attempt to roll the ball down the middle of the goal was read by Shin, who dropped to his left to save.
Pohang sought to turn that let off into something tangible but the closest Hwang Sun-hong’s side came to an equaliser was when Shin Kwang-hoon’s effort from the edge of the area flew across the face of goal.
With three minutes remaining, Beijing finally claimed the second goal that wrapped up the three points as the Pohang defence was unable to clear Zhang Xizhe’s free kick from the left and Shao swooped to squeeze the ball between Shin and his near post.
“This was a decisive match for our qualification into the last 16, but unfortunately we didn't make it,” said Pohang coach Hwang Sun-hong. “We still have one more game to go and we will try our best.
“Kanoute was their outstanding player. We marked him well in the first half, but he was too good. In the second half we put lots of energy into the attacking when we were behind, so we lost some control over him.
“This was Beijing's first victory against a Korean team in many years, but I don't think it is a big deal. And this game shouldn't be taken as a reflection or comparison of the true football qualities between two nations.”