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Group F: Ten-man Ulsan Hyundai fend off Kaya FC-Iloilo to extend AFC Champions League win record

Bangkok: Ulsan Hyundai FC made it a record-extending 13 wins in a row as the AFC Champions League holders overcame a spirited Kaya FC-Iloilo 2-1 on Monday.

The win took Ulsan - reduced to 10 players in the 31st minute - to 12 points as the Korea Republic side moved closer to confirming their Round of 16 spot from Group F.

Philippines side Kaya, despite the defeat, walked away with their heads held high after not only giving the match their all but by becoming the first team to score against Ulsan in the 2021 edition of the AFC Champions League.

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Ulsan made wholesale changes to their starting lineup with goalkeeper Jo Su-huk making his first appearance since the 2020 final against Persepolis FC while Yoon Bit-garam entered the fray after recovering from an injury suffered on Matchday One.

Ulsan, however, started on the front foot despite the changes and Kaya goalkeeper Zach Banzon, who was making his continental debut, was called into action as early as the second minute when he parried Kim Min-jun’s effort from distance, before saving Lukas Hinterseer’s volley six minutes later.

The K League side held over 80 percent of possession but found it difficult to break the disciplined Kaya defence.

Ulsan’s persistence, however, eventually bore fruit in the 27th minute but the goal came in the most unlikeliest of ways, with Hinterseer collecting Kim’s pass in the centre of the box before unleashing a shot that deflected off Yoon’s face and into the back of the net leaving Banzon stunned.

Hong Myung-bo’s charges stepped up a gear in search of a second but their aggression would be their undoing four minutes later when Kim was shown a direct red card for his foul on Marco Casambre.

With the additional manpower, Kaya began asserting themselves and pushed Ulsan into a defensive formation for the first time in the match but the Iloilo-based club struggled to make their way into the final third as the reigning Asian champions took the lead heading into the break.

Having finished the first half strongly, Kaya moved with confidence after the break and found their equaliser just two minutes into the restart when Ryo Fujii’s cross ended with captain Jovin Bedic firing  a half-volley from a tight angle to make it 1-1. 

Unfazed by the goal, Ulsan pressed forward with Yoon leading the charge and the 2020 MVP displayed his finishing prowess in the 51st minute when he first controlled substitute Oh Se-hun’s pass, before letting loose a cracking right-footed shot to reclaim the lead.

With their one man advantage, Kaya were beginning to find open spaces with their quick passes in the final third while Ulsan were content to sit back and launch the occasional counter attack.

Kaya had one final chance to end Ulsan's winning run when substitute Jesus Melliza sent in a curling cross into the area in the 85th minute, but Bedic's first touch let him down as the Korean side held on to secure the win.

Ulsan take on Vietnam's Viettel next on Thursday while Kaya will face Thailand's BG Pathum United.

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