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We have to take AFC Champions League chance while we can, says Ulsan Hyundai’s Yoon

Doha: After falling narrowly short in both of Korea Republic’s major domestic competitions, Yoon Bit-garam has urged his Ulsan Hyundai side to seize the opportunity to become AFC Champions League winners.

The comments came following Yoon’s Player of the Match performance in the club’s comprehensive 3-1 win over Shanghai Shenhua at Education City Stadium on Saturday; a showing in which they stamped their authority as possible title contenders.

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It’s not the first time Ulsan have looked like world-beaters in 2020. Kim Do-hoon’s charges were on track to win both the K League and the Korean FA Cup, but ended up with neither, as three losses in run of five crucial games saw both titles claimed by Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

Yoon, 30, has won both individual accolades and international caps in his career, but a major team honour has eluded him, and he sees the most unique of AFC Champions League campaigns as the perfect opportunity to complete his résumé.

Group F - MD2: Ulsan Hyundai FC 3-1 Shanghai Shenhua

“To be honest, it was disappointing that we missed out on the title in the K League and the FA Cup, and that’s why I’m really eager to win the title in the AFC Champions League,” said the 15-time Korea Republic international.

“Personally, I thought we might not play anymore (in the ACL this year). Nobody knew (if it would be completed), so I think I have to capture the chance while I have it. That’s why I really want to win the title in this competition.

“It’s been a while since I’ve played in the AFC Champions League. I was really eager to play in this competition, and my teammates feel the same.”

To say it has been a while since Yoon appeared in the competition is something of an understatement. It has been eight long years since his last bow on the Asian club stage for Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, and he more than made up for lost time.

Striker Junior Negrao had been responsible for nearly half of Ulsan’s 54 league goals this season, but it was Yoon who emerged as their star marksman in Doha, opening the scoring thanks to a combination of positioning and persistence in the 19th minute, before adding a superb second in the shadows of half-time.

Despite his star turn, Yoon was happy to share the praise with his teammates.

"I think that our mentality was a bit stronger than the opponent, and our attitude to win the game was a little bit stronger than Shanghai’s,” he said. “We also did what we trained on the pitch, and that was important in winning the game.

“I played well today, and I showed my character, but I also want to say thank you to my teammates. They also helped a lot and we showed we had prepared well. So, I give the thanks to my teammates for the result.”

Yoon and Ulsan will look to keep the good times rolling against Perth Glory on Tuesday. The club are aiming to become Asian champions for the second time, having lifted the trophy in 2012.

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