Hiroshima win Asian showdown, seal fifth
J-League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima defeated Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea 3-2 to seal fifth place at the Club World Cup in Japan on Wednesday.
The coaches of both teams had billed the contest as an ideal opportunity to showcase Asian football to the world, and neither disappointed in a lively encounter in which Hiroshima came from behind to win.
Ulsan had the better of the first half, going close twice before taking the lead on 17 minutes due to a defensive blooper that Hiroshima defender Hiroki Mizumoto would rather forget.
As goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa rushed off his line to collect a knocked-down pass, Mizumoto inexplicably side-footed the ball past him into a empty net.
The blunder gave Ulsan confidence and the South Koreans streamed forward at every opportunity.
However, it was Hiroshima who scored the game's second goal. On 35 minutes Satoru Yamagishi pounced to poke the ball in from close range after goalkeeper Kim Young-Kwang had expertly saved a Hisato Sato header.
Ulsan centre-forward Kim Shin-Wook rattled the crossbar shortly before halftime as the South Koreans continued to have the better opportunities, but Hiroshima hung on until the break.
Buoyed by still being on level terms, the Japanese champions started the second half the brighter.
They got their reward after 56 minutes when Sato, top scorer in the J-League last season, beat his marker to the ball and got the faintest of touches to direct it past goalkeeper Kim.
As Ulsan pressed forward looking for the equaliser they were left exposed at the back, and with less than 20 minutes to go Sato tapped in when the ball ricocheted and fell kindly to him. It was his third goal of the tournament.
There was no way back at a largely empty 36 000-capacity Toyota Stadium for the recently-crowned AFC Champions League winners, who scored a consolation deep into injury time through Lee Yong.
Hiroshima coach Hajime Moriyasu said: "It has been a tight schedule for us since winning the J-League but the players had the guts and spirit to play to the end of the game.
"It was a great performance. I would like to really commend my players, many of whom are very tired."
Ulsan coach Kim Ho-Gon said: "Their organisation was very good and their balance between offence and defence was good. They had speed on the counter-attack.
"We were able to create chances but we weren't able to take them all. We also weren't able to prevent Hiroshima's offence. That is why we lost."
Hiroshima were beaten by Egypt's Al Ahly in the quarterfinals while Ulsan lost to Mexican side Monterrey.
Ulsan finish sixth and part-timers Auckland City took home the wooden spoon after losing the opening game of the intercontinental championship.