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Football | International

Lee Keun-Ho © Reuters Images

Lee eyes Asian player of the year



Man of the match Lee Keun-Ho is hoping his heroics in Ulsan Hyundai's AFC Champions League win will be enough to see him crowned Asian player of the year.

The South Korean international winger did not score in Saturday's emphatic 3-0 victory over Saudi side Al Ahli, but he was the key component as Ulsan completed a run of nine consecutive wins to lift the trophy for the first time.

Lee's man of the match award also gives him valuable points towards a short-listing for the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Asian player of the year prize, which will be handed out in Kuala Lumpur later this month.

"I can't express how happy I am," said Lee. "I have no words to describe how happy I am. I am so happy that I am able to give a present to the coach, Kim Ho-Gon.

"I won the MVP (most valuable player) award which I did not expect. This is the biggest individual prize of my career and now I want to become AFC player of the year."

Saturday's victory, thanks to goals from Kwak Tae-Hwi, Rafinha and Kim Seung-Yong, ensured Ulsan went through the entire tournament unbeaten.

Lee, who joined Ulsan from Japan's Gamba Osaka this season, had scored in the three games before the final and also grabbed the crucial late winner against Kashiwa Reysol in the round of 16.

But it was the second leg of their quarterfinal with another Saudi team, Al Hilal, that Lee said ignited Ulsan's charge to the championship. Ulsan won the away leg 4-0, with Lee scoring the third goal.

"The quarterfinals were the most important for us as we only managed to win the first game 1-0," he said.

"We didn't play very well even though it was a home game, but in the away game we were able to score four goals and that gave us a lot of confidence when we got to the final.

"It was the first time for us to play in front of such a crowd and it was such a big boost for the players."

Lee was also looking forward to returning to Japan for next month's Club World Cup – as long as he can delay the start of his compulsory military service.

"I left Japan last year and the coach asked me to come to Ulsan and there is a great atmosphere within the club," said Lee, who spent three seasons in Japan's J-League.

"I think I can play in the Fifa Club World Cup as I think I can delay my army service."

Ulsan's coach Kim Ho-Gon called the win his "happiest time", while Al Ahli boss Karel Jarolim admitted that the South Korean side deserved the trophy.

"Most of the players did their best but Ulsan are strong and they deserved to win. This is football," said the Czech.

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