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Vissel Kobe edge Suwon Samsung Bluewings on penalties to book AFC Champions League semi-final ticket

Doha: Vissel Kobe needed an extended run of a shootout but were eventually able to overcome ten-man Suwon Samsung Bluewings 7-6 on penalties after the 120 minutes ended 1-1 to reach the 2020 AFC Champions League (East) semi-final on Thursday.

Deprived of the services of their talismanic midfielder Andres Iniesta who was deemed only fit enough for a place on the bench after a muscle injury in the previous match, Vissel Kobe found themselves ceding possession to their opponents in the early stages of the game.

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Taking the initiative, Suwon Samsung Bluewings came close to taking the lead inside four minutes as Kim Min-woo fed Ko Seung-beom on the edge of the area and the latter slipped a through pass for Lim Sang-hyeob who aimed for the top corner from a narrow angle, but goalkeeper Daiya Maekawa tipped the ball behind for a corner.

The Koreans got their goal at the second time of asking as Ko whipped in a cross from the right flank and youngster Park Sang-hyeok displayed intelligent understanding of the space inside the box to move unmarked at the near box and head home the opener in the seventh minute.

With the first half headed to a close, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) made an impact on the 2020 AFC Champions League (East) following its introduction at the quarter-final stage.

Daigo Nishi was sent through on goal behind the Suwon Samsung Bluewings defence and with just the goalkeeper ahead of him, he was brought down by Kim Tae-hwan on the edge of the box, prompting the referee to point to the spot and book the Korean defender.

However, after consulting VAR and reviewing the incident, both decisions were overturned, with the foul being deemed to have happened outside the box and Kim being adjudged to have denied a certain goal scoring opportunity, earning a straight red card instead of yellow.

Suwon Samsung Bluewings were compounded immediately after going a man down as Kyogo Furuhashi showed a cunning eye for goal, sending the ball underneath the Korean wall from the resulting free-kick to bring Vissel Kobe level five minutes before the break.

With momentum and the numerical advantage to their side, Vissel Kobe dominated the second half and came close on several occasions with Yuta Goke setting up captain Hotaru Yamaguchi whose long range effort was saved by goalkeeper Yang Hyung-mo and Douglas missing the target with a free header from close range half an hour into the second period.

Despite the Japanese side’s superiority in the second half, they were unable to find a winner as Suwon Samsung Bluewings’ resilient defending meant the two teams would have to contest 30 minutes of extra time.

It was more of the same in extra time as Vissel Kobe continued to have the lion’s share of possession and chances in the first half of extra time with Furuhashi coming closest five minutes in with a glancing header bouncing off the crossbar and Douglas fluffing his lines with the goalmouth at his mercy minutes later.

With a penalty shootout looming, Suwon Samsung Bluewings came as close as possible to finding a winner without actually doing so as Kim Min-woo watched his volleyed effort from inside the box cleared off the line by Yamaguchi before Ko’s follow-up beat the Japanese goalkeeper but hit the post as the final whistle announced the two sides needed to be separated by spot-kicks.

Substitute Kim Gun-hee put Suwon Samsung Bluewings in front and Iniesta matched him. Lee Ki-je and Douglas netted the second spot-kick for each side. Kim Min-woo and Ryo Hatsuse kept the run going then it was the turn of Ko and Furuhashi to slot home for 4-4.

Han Suk-jong ensured it was a perfect five for Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Yamaguchi sent the game into the sudden death shootout.

Goalkeeper Maekawa got a touch on Min Sang-gi’s penalty but could not stop the ball going in and Tatshushi Yamakawa kept Vissel Kobe’s hopes alive.

The scoring run was finally broken and it was Jang Ho-ik who missed the target for the Korean side, allowing substitute Noriaki Fujimoto to send Vissel Kobe into the semi-finals in their AFC Champions League debut with a composed finish from the spot.

Vissel Kobe book a Sunday date with Korea Republic's Ulsan Hyundai FC at Al Janoub Stadium for a place in the final against Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis FC six days later.

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