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▶ Marinos defeat Ulsan in semi-final thriller [2024/04/24   ]

A pulsating first half at Yokohama International Stadium saw Asahi Uenaka’s double and a goal from Anderson Lopes put the Japanese side 3-1 up on aggregate.

However, a Matheus Sales header and a penalty from Darijan Bojanic brought the aggregate scoreline level at the interval as the hosts were also reduced to 10 men after Takumi Kamijima was dismissed.

With no further goals in the second half or extra time, the tie went to penalties where Eduardo struck the winning spot-kick after Yokohama goalkeeper William Popp had saved from Kim Min-woo as Yokohama booked a date with the United Arab Emirates’ Al Ain FC in next month’s final.

Yokohama made three changes from the side that started the 1-0 defeat in Korea last week, with the big news being the return from injury of Brazilian winger Elber, while Matheus Sales for Ko Seung-beom was the only change made by Ulsan head coach Hong Myung-bo.

The game kicked off in heavy rain with the hosts on the front foot from the start as Yan Matheus cut inside from the right and curled wide of the far post inside five minutes.

And the pressure told when the opening goal arrived in the 13th minute. Nam Tae-hee miscontrolled a Yan Matheus pass from the right but, after a mix up in the Ulsan defence, Uenaka pounced onto the loose ball before coolly finishing into the bottom right corner.

Harry Kewell’s side kept pushing forward and Lopes called Jo Hyeon-woo into action when his fizzing shot from distance forced the Ulsan goalkeeper to get down low to his left and push wide.

The second goal arrived in the 21st minute following more good work from Yan Matheus, who threaded the ball to Lopes on the edge of the area and the Brazilian took one touch with his right foot before firing low and hard into the bottom left corner to double his side’s advantage.

Incredibly, the hosts went three up in the 30th minute when Ulsan lost possession in their own half, allowing Nam to find Uenaka who spun away from his marker and planted a delightful effort from 20 yards into the top-left corner.

But just as it appeared like the J1 League side were going to cruise into the final, Ulsan gave themselves hope in the 35th minute when Matheus Sales headed Lee Dong-gyeong’s inswinging corner from the right into the back of the net.

The visitors then drew level on aggregate three minutes before the interval when Um Won-sang raced into the area and when he attempted to cut inside Kamijima, the ball struck the sliding defender’s arm and the referee pointed to the spot before showing the Marinos man red.

Substitute Bojanic, who was introduced just before the first goal, made no mistake from the spot, sending goalkeeper Popp the wrong way to make it 3-2 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate.

In an action-packed opening 45 minutes, there was still time for Lee to rattle the crossbar before half-time with the tide having completely turned and Ulsan dominating.

Bojanic thought he had added a second soon after the restart only for the goal to be ruled out following a VAR review as Gustav Ludwigson, in an offside position, was adjudged to have obstructed the view of Popp.

A lovely give-and-go between Lee and Bojanic then set the former free in the box, but Popp was up to the challenge to push wide for a corner.

Yokohama were next to have a goal ruled out when Yan Matheus was flagged offside after heading Katsuya Nagato’s chipped cross into the back of the net shortly after the hour.

Ludwigson should have netted Ulsan’s third with six minutes remaining but headed wide from just a few yards out after being teed up by substitute Martin Adam, before Adam fired wide from distance soon after as the visitors sought to avoid an additional 30 minutes.

Bojanic was inches away from scoring with three minutes remaining as he connected with Ludwigson’s centre only to see his effort rebound back off the post as Yokohama continued to survive.

With the game into the second period of extra time, Yokohama substitute Kota Mizunuma called Jo into action with a low drive which the Korean custodian did well to push wide.

Ulsan's Kim then had another goal ruled out for offside with five minutes remaining as the game went to penalties.

After both sides scored their first four spot-kicks, Popp saved from Kim allowing Eduardo to step up and score the winning penalty as Yokohama advanced to their first final following an AFC Champions League classic.

- The origianl text resource is from AFC Official Website

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