Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat Ulsan Hyundai 3-2 on Wednesday evening, ending their first-ever Fifa Club World Cup campaign with a fifth-place finish.
The Asian champions dominated from the outset, frequently playing deep into Sanfrecce’s half and creating numerous scoring chances through striker Lee Keun-Ho, who was playing in his final match before returning to Korea to begin his mandatory military service.
But the first score of the match came not through the K-League side’s famed ‘iron mace’ attacking, but via a legendary blunder by Sanfrecce defender Hiroki Mizumoto, whose back-pass to goalkeeper Shunsaku Nishikawa in the midst of a fierce Ulsan attack had too heavy a touch and sent the ball to the back of the net for an own goal.
The embarrassing play was enough to shock Sanfrecce back into action as they slowly worked their way into the match, earning several set pieces in Ulsan territory. The southern Japan side equalised in the 35th minute, when Satoru Yamagishi stuffed in a rebound off after captain Hisato Sato’s header was parried. The score gave Sanfrecce fans plenty to cheer about as the teams went into half-time deadlocked at one goal apiece.
The host representatives came out with renewed vigour in the second half, but fans from both sides were momentarily overwhelmed by cheers from Corinthians supporters filtering into the stadium. Attention quickly shifted back onto the pitch when Sato, criticised for his poor finishing in Sunday’s quarter-final loss to Al-Ahly, snuck in a clever goal in the 55th minute of play to send the Japanese crowd into a frenzy.
Sato struck again 17 minutes later on a fine assist by Yojiro Takahagi for his third goal of the tournament and a double on the night. Ulsan mounted a couple brave challenges courtesy of Kim Shin-Wook, but save for a consolation goal by Lee Yong on the final kick of the game appeared to have already begun their winter vacation.