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2010 AFC Champions League Final Flashback: When Korea Republic's Seongnam met IR Iran's Zobahan


Kuala Lumpur: When Ulsan Hyundai FC and Persepolis FC face off in the  2020 AFC Champions League final in Doha on Saturday, it marks just the second time clubs from their respective nations have met at this stage in the tournament's history, the first coming a decade ago.

As the clock ticks down towards Asian club football's highly anticipated showpiece event, the-AFC.com rolls back the clock 10 years to when teams from Korea Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran first faced off in the AFC Champions League final: a memorable encounter between Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and Zobahan.

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The stage is set

After their spectacular collapse against Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad in the 2004 final, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma went into the game desperate to exorcise their demons and lift the trophy for the first time in the AFC Champions League era.

The Korean club, who had won multiple Asian titles prior to the inception of the AFC Champions League, were coming into the tie in Tokyo on a high.

After topping Group E, Shin Tae-yong's men had comprehensively defeated Japanese powerhouse Gamba Osaka in the Round of 16, before edging past countrymen Suwon Samsung Bluewings and then Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia.

Zobahan, meanwhile, had far less Continental pedigree with the 2010 edition representing just their second appearance on the Asian stage.

Nevertheless it had been a campaign to treasure for their supporters as they won Group B then narrowly defeated compatriots Mes Kerman and Korean side Pohang Steelers before impressively easing past Saudi heavyweights Al Hilal.


Confidence before kick-off

“I think we have an excellent chance of winning the title," said Zobahan coach Mansour Ebrahimzadeh ahead of the AFC Champions League climax.

“The players are in the right frame of mind and they all want to win. We’re a tight-knit unit and that’s what sets us apart from other teams, because there are no stars in this side and we’re all part of one big family."

Seongnam captain Sasa Ognenovski, meanwhile, recalled his side went into the match equally sure of their success.

"For me, we went into the final as the favourites, as the better team and we knew we needed to make the most of it," the Australian told the-AFC.com.

"We walked into that stadium and into that game, absolutely supremely confident that we would win."


The captain leads by example

Just over 27,000 spectators turned up at Tokyo's National Stadium to see the clubs face off in the tournament's second single-match final since 2002, when the competition was known as the Asian Club Championship.

And it was those dressed in the yellow of Seongnam who were celebrating in the stands just before the half hour, when Ognenovski stabbed home from close range to give Shin Tae-yong's men the opener.

Seongnam maintained their slim lead at the interval and just eight minutes after the restart they doubled their advantage.

Ognenovski's centre-back partner Cho Byung-kuk taking advantage of a flick on at the near post from an inswinging corner to stoop and head home to the delight of his teammates and the Seongnam fans in attendance.


Khalatbari pulls one back

But Zobahan had not gone all the way to the AFC Champions League final by giving teams an easy ride and less than 15 minutes later had reduced the deficit.

Seongnam goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong bravely denied the onrushing Igor Castro, but the ball looped up into the air following the coming together and Mohammadreza Khalatbari was in the right place to loft home a header up and over three backtracking defenders and into the unguarded net.


But Kim Cheol-ho seals the title

It proved a nervy finish to proceedings in the Japanese capital as the clock ticked down, but on 83 minutes midfielder Kim Cheol-ho setlled matters for the Koreans.

Substute Kim Jin-yong had barely been on the pitch when he robbed a dawdling Zobhan defender and allowed Mauricio Molina to advance on goal. The Colombian's shot ricocheted off a back-tracking Farshid Talebi and fell kindly into the path of Kim Cheol-ho who poked into the net past Shahab Gordan.

The final whistle was not long in coming as referee Yuichi Nishimura brought proceedings to a close and Seongnam were crowned Continental champions for a second time, adding to the Asian Club Championship they won in 1995.

The victory also meant that the title would stay in Korea for a second consecutive year after Pohang Steelers had defeated Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad a year prior.

Korean clubs would go on to appear in the AFC Champions League final four more times (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016), winning in 2012 with Ulsan and 2016 with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

For teams from IR Iran, the sole representative at Asian club football's grandest stage since then was Persepolis in 2018.

The Tehran giants return for Saturday's final of the 2020 edition looking to go one better than their countrymen Zobahan and become the first Iranian winners in the AFC Champions League era.

Ulsan, meanwhile, will be hoping that this second Korean-Iranian encounter goes exactly the same as the first meeting 10 years ago.

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