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Analysis: Ulsan Hyundai come out on top in battle of the unbeaten AFC Champions League sides

Doha: Ulsan Hyundai booked a return to the AFC Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2012 thanks to strong performances at both ends of the pitch.

Another standout performance from an Ulsan forward saw them take an early lead, but it was the tenacity of the defence that helped push their winning streak to seven matches as they saw off Beijing FC 2-0 in the quarter-finals.

Beijing, meanwhile, created enough to advance to their first-ever semi-final, but were ultimately unable to convert their chances despite a strong performance from one of their star men, Jonathan Viera.

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Junior's moment to shine

Another AFC Champions League match, another Ulsan Hyundai man with multiple goals. Brazilian marksman Junior Negrao netted twice to make it four straight matches with a brace for an Ulsan player and helped secure his side's return to the penultimate stage of the competition for the first time since 2012.

After three games without a goal, the K League 1 Golden Boot winner got back on the scoresheet converting from the spot in the 21st minute; a goal that would go on to be his second match winner in the Continental competition this year. Just 20 minutes later, Junior doubled the lead with a thunderous effort from 30 yards out to give his side the cushion they would need to see out the tie.

Negrao accounted for nearly all of Ulsan's attacking statistics, recording five of the team's seven shots, and was efficient with his efforts, hitting the target three times. He also completed the majority of his passes and even dropped further back than usual to help Ulsan's defensive effort as they held on to their lead.

Junior's brace moved him up Ulsan's scoring charts into a three-way tie with Bjorn Johnsen and Yoon Bit-garam on four goals. With Al Nassr's Abderrazak Hamdallah just three goals away atop the scoring chart, Negrao will have an eye on claiming his second Golden Boot of 2020.

Viera's extraordinary effort

Despite having 63% possession, 22 shots and five corners, Beijing FC couldn't find a breakthrough and were held scoreless for the first time in Continental competition this year. They did, however, create several chances throughout the 90 minutes with star man Jonathan Viera leading the way.

The Spanish midfielder created four chances for his teammates and had six shots on goal himself. One of which nearly gave Beijing a lifeline in the 64th minute when his right-footed effort from outside the box beat Jo So-huk, but struck the post and came back into play.

Viera was nearly everywhere for Beijing, completing 86% of his 92 passes and racking up more touches (115) than anyone else on the pitch. He also contributed defensively, blocking two shots and winning 71% of his duels.

He leaves the competition having completed 88% of an astounding 509 passes in 594 minutes played with two goals, four assists, and 15 interceptions. While Beijing fans won't be happy to bow out at the quarter-finals, having Viera on this kind of form going into the 2021 Chinese Super League season will be some solace.

Ulsan's defence takes centre stage

Known more for their attacking prowess as the competition's highest scoring side with 19 goals, it was Ulsan's defence that stood tall against Beijing. With only 37% possession in the match, Ulsan's backline was under nearly constant pressure from Beijing to the tune of 22 shots.

Luckily for the Korean side, their backline was up to the challenge clearing the ball 18 times, blocking four shots and maintaining a 75% tackle success rate with several players stepping up.

None stood taller than veteran goalkeeper Jo So-huk. The backup to Korea Republic number one Jo Hyun-woo at Ulsan all season, the 33-year-old didn't make a single appearance in K League 1. However, with seven straight starts in Doha, he has conceded just four times and kept three clean sheets.

Perhaps the most impressive of which came against a Beijing side that peppered the net with shots throughout the match, forcing the keeper into eight saves. The most memorable of which saw him tip a long-range Viera effort over the bar in the first half and produce a reflex save against A Lan in the second.

With so many attacking options clicking up front, and Jo Su-huk in fine form at the back, Ulsan seem poised to perform well in their first AFC Champions League semi-final appearance in eight years this Sunday.

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