South Korea vs. Japan: A classic in Asian Champions League

By JOHN DUERDEN

Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) The second-leg semifinal of the Asian Champions League between Suwon Bluewings and Kashima Antlers offers a classic South Korea vs. Japan showdown.

Kashima came back from a two-goal deficit at home in early October to defeat Suwon 3-2 and take a narrow lead into the second leg in South Korea.

Suwon, a two-time winner of the Champions League's predecessor - the Asian Club Championship - has prepared for the second leg by reappointing Seo Jung-won as the head coach. The former international resigned in August but returned to the club last week.

"After receiving the club's request that I come back, I made up my mind," Seo said. "I had a desire to responsibly complete this season's remaining matches. We know that we have a tough job against Kashima."

Like Suwon in Korea's K-League, Kashima is out of the running for Japan's domestic title and is able to focus on solely on the Asia-wide competition.

"We fought back well to come back against Suwon," Kashima coach Go Oiwa said. "We conceded two goals however and we will have to be at our best in the return game. This is only halftime."

The match also offers an American twist.

America referee Mark Geiger is in charge of Wednesday's match as part of a referee exchange between the Asian Football Confederation and CONCACAF, the body that governs soccer in North and Central American and the Caribbean.

The winner will meet either Persepolis of Iran or Qatar's Al Sadd in November's final. The club from Tehran has the advantage after a 1-0 win in Doha in the first leg and is on the verge of making the final for the first time.

Al Sadd has a tough task. It will be helped by midfielder Gabi, who joined the Qatari club in July. There is also the excitement of playing Tuesday at Azadi Stadium in Tehran in front of a crowd that could reach 100,000.

"It's up there with the biggest stadiums in Europe, and the atmosphere is so passionate," Gabi said, who formerly played for Atletico Madrid.

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Updated October 22, 2018

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