A multi-goal outburst from Lee Dong-joon helped K League 1 side Jeonbuk Hyundai advance to the round of 16 in their final group game of the 2023-2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL).

Pohang Steelers, Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonbuk are the other three teams in the round of 16 as Incheon United slipped to third place in Group G by a ‘narrow margin’.

Jeonbuk defeated Bangkok United (Thailand) 3-2 in the final six matches of Group F of the 2023-2024 ACL Group Stage at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, South Korea, on March 13.

Finishing second in Group F with four wins and two losses for 12 points, behind Bangkok (four wins, one draw and one loss for 13 points), Jeonbuk secured a top-three finish among the second-place teams in each of the five East Asian groups to advance from the group stage.

With a total of 20 clubs competing in five groups, the ACL East Asia Group Stage will see the first-place team from each group and the best three second-place teams advance to the Round of 16.

Among the K League teams, Group J leader Pohang (5 wins, 1 draw) and Group I runner-up Ulsan (3 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses) advanced to the round of 16, joined by Jeonbuk.

Jeonbuk and Ulsan finished the group stage with more points than Group H runner-up Melbourne City (Australia – 9 points) and Group J runner-up Urawa Reds (Japan – 7 points).

It didn’t start well for Jeonbuk. They were down a goal to Wanchai Jarunongkran just four minutes into the match.

A cross came in from the right flank, but neither Koo Ja-ryong nor Ahn Hyun-beom were able to clear it properly, allowing the ball to find its way to Jarunongkran for the goal.

It was veteran Moon Sun-min who stepped up to the plate to save Jeonbuk from elimination. In the 42nd minute, Moon rattled the net with a powerful right-footed strike in front of the penalty area off a cutback from Lee Dong-joon down the middle.

With the momentum on their side, Jeonbuk added a second goal in the 31st minute. Song Min-gyu slipped a pass into the back of the defense and Lee Dong-joon finished to make it 2-0.

Lee completed his hat-trick two minutes later on the counterattack, converting a penetrating pass from Moon Sun-min with a right-footed shot.

Bangkok pulled one back in the 40th minute through Rungras Phumichantuk, but it was not enough to turn the tide.

National team coach Jürgen Klinsmann, who is preparing for the AFC Asian Cup in January, was at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium to watch Jeonbuk’s performance.

Earlier, in the final Group G match, Incheon defeated Kaya FC Iloilo (Philippines) 3-1 away from home.

However, in the same match, Yokohama F.Marinos (Japan) defeated Choi Kang-hee’s Shandong Taishan (China) 3-0 at home to advance to the Round of 16.

Incheon had four wins and two defeats in their six group games, giving them 12 points, the same as Shandong and Yokohama.

However, Incheon’s two wins over Yokohama, Yokohama’s two wins over Shandong, and Shandong’s two wins over Incheon equalized the head-to-head record of all three teams.

As a result, the three teams, with the exception of Kaya, who dropped to the bottom of the standings with six losses, were separated by goal differential, with Incheon (-1) trailing first-place Yokohama (+1) and second-place Shandong (0).

With the loss, Incheon slipped to third place in the group despite collecting four wins (two losses) in their first ACL appearance.

It was a disappointing result after a promising start, as Filipino team Kaya did not win a single game and suffered six losses, and the remaining three teams were evenly matched.

For Incheon, it was especially painful to lose both games against Shandong, which was coached by Choi. In the two games against Shandong, Incheon conceded five goals while scoring one.

On this occasion, Incheon got off to a flying start when Park Seung-ho rattled the net just 12 minutes into the match.

Park Seung-ho curled in a cross from the right flank that went straight past the goalkeeper and into the corner of the net.

Thirteen minutes later, after chasing down a penetrating pass from Mpoku and running into the back of the opposition defense, Choi Woo-jin made it 2-0 with a sharp left-footed shot. An initial offside call was made, but video assistant referee (VAR) review allowed the goal to stand.

Kaya pulled one back in the eighth minute of the second half when Simone Rota headed home from a corner kick, but they were then awarded a penalty kick in stoppage time for a handball foul.

Kim Do-hyuk, who stepped up to take the penalty kick, calmly finished to seal the win. 슬롯게이밍

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