Incheon United has qualified for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) for the first time in its history after a hard-fought victory.
The 2023-2024 ACL playoffs kicked off at the Incheon Football Stadium on Nov. 22, with Incheon defeating Hai Phong FC 3-1 in extra time.
The match was tougher than expected. Incheon conceded an early goal to Hai Phong, a team that was considered an underdog. The timing was also very early. Within the first five minutes, Hai Phong striker Yuri Mamute found a gap in the Incheon defense and, after winning a contest, confidently fired a shot that rattled the net.
The goals that saved Incheon from what could have been a complete collapse came in bunches, each one meaningful, and the equalizer came quickly. In the 17th minute of the first half, Incheon’s two strikers, Mugosa and Chun Sung-hoon, combined to score for the first time. It was the first time they had started next to each other, and they connected with just a glance. Mugosa sent in a cross that Chun headed home. In a post-match interview with Mixzone, Chun said, “When he sent the cross up, our eyes met. He placed it just right for me to slide in,” he said, giving credit to Mugosa.
After the equalizer, it was a difficult time. Incheon brought on Jerso and Kim Do-hyuk at halftime in an attempt to turn things around and pushed Hai Phong hard at the start of the second half, but could not find a way past Nguyen Dinh Trieu in goal. Early in the second half, Jung Dong-yoon and Gerso had good chances that were saved by Dintriou. Mugosa’s threatening header and follow-up shot from a corner kick in the 22nd minute were also saved by the goalkeeper.
Even after introducing Hernandez, Kim Bo-seop, and Shin Shin-ho in succession, the pressure continued to mount on Incheon as time ticked away. With the advantage in power and a home game, Incheon was the more nervous side. The Hai Phong players took advantage of this by eating up time. The on-again, off-again rain also weighed heavily on the Incheon players’ shoulders.
Finally, in the sudden-death overtime, Incheon got the goal they were waiting for. Players who should have been involved in the scoring process were. Shin Shin-ho passed the ball to Kim Do-hyuk, who passed it straight to Gerso. On the counterattack, Jerso exchanged a 2-on-1 pass with Mugosa and found space between the Hai Phong defense. Following the ball into the left side of the penalty box, he sent a pass to the other side, where Hernandez, who was rushing into the box, slotted it into the back of the net. It was Hernandez’s comeback goal after a month out due to injury.
With the victory in hand, Incheon began to find space and control the game, and even scored a wedge goal just before the end. The star of the show was Jerso, who had previously scored four goals and provided four assists in six league games. He intercepted the ball from the opposing goalkeeper, who had jumped outside the penalty box, and sprinted toward goal alone. Once in front of an empty net, he shared the joy of advancing with the fans in front of him before firing a cool shot into the back of the net. 온라인바카라
With the hard-fought victory behind them, Incheon will now embark on a full-fledged ACL challenge. The group draw will be held on the 24th, and the group stage will begin in September.