FC Seoul’s dramatic 1-0 AFC Champions League win in Gosford over the Central Coast Mariners could pave the way for their K-League turnaround according to coach Choi Yong-soo.
The Seoul manager felt the dramatic injury-time victory will also give his side some confidence heading into their final Group F match next week when they host Beijing Guoan, with the Korean team needing at the very least to draw that encounter to consolidate their position in the competition's next round.
FC Seoul, last year’s AFC Champions League runners-up, were favoured to progress when the group was drawn. But it took until the second minute of second-half injury time on Wednesday night to break down the A-League champions despite dominating the fixture.
The goal came from an unexpected source as well, with Mariners skipper John Hutchinson turning in Kim Jin-kyu’s hopeful cross deep into injury time.
FC Seoul’s second win of the campaign (coupled with a 2-2 draw in the Bejing Guoan v Sanfecce Hiroshima game in China later on Wednesday night) means a win in their final group game would confirm their spot in the last 16.
However FC Seoul could also afford a draw or even a loss should Central Coast’s match against Sanfrecce finish in a draw. The other three sides are on six points with FC Seoul on eight.
A blunt Choi, speaking via an interpreter, said recent weeks had not been enjoyable for the club given they have won just once in eight K-League games. However the result seems to have buoyed the coach and he's hoping it will rub off on his players.
"FC Seoul have shown poor quality in the K-League and ACL," declared Choi.
"Tonight I trusted the players and they had really good confidence. I think tonight will have a positive impact on our further matches in the K-League and AFC (Champions League.)
"We have had really hard times in both the K-League and AFC… we have had many good chances but we couldn’t score many goals. After tonight’s goal I think FC Seoul is going to go further in the ACL and improve in the K-League.
"I want to praise every single player tonight as they all played well and that’s why we got three points tonight.
"I have analysed the Mainers style for a long time, especially for tonight," he added.
"All the Mariners have showed was counter-attack and it wasn’t very big. I was happy with how I have prepared for the game."
In a possible tongue-in-cheek reference to combative midfielder Nick Montgomery the 40 year-old singled-out the former Sheffield United man when discussing the Mariners.
"I was astonished with (Nick) Montgomery, he showed a really, really high quality of football tonight and I think he is a real gentleman.
"The Mariners, individually, all showed really good quality tonight.
Dynamic midfielder Go Yo-han, who breathed life into a stuttering FC Seoul attack when coming on as a second half replacement, earned praise from his boss.
"I saved him (Go) for the second half and he gave really positive energy to us tonight so I am really happy with the tactics in that regard," said Choi.
Choi, who played in two World Cups for Korea, insists the job isn’t done yet despite the fact his side in in pole position to progress to the knockout phase.
"FC Seoul are going to do our best in the group stage even though it is down to the last game. I don’t want to panic, I want to tell the players to be calm and prepare.
FC Seoul will be steeled for the final ACL match day next Wednesday as the host current K-League Classic leaders Pohang Steelers on Sunday.