BY DAN ORLOWITZ Follow on Twitter
Sanfrecce Hiroshima have filed a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) following a series of puzzling officiating decisions in their 2-2 draw with FC Seoul on Tuesday night.
The AFC Champions League (ACL) group stage clash ended in controversy when FC Seoul were awarded two penalty kicks in the last six minutes of the game by Qatari referee Fahad Jaber Al Marri.
The first came in the 88th minute, when Hiroki Mizumoto received a second yellow card despite what appeared to be minimal contact between him and the Seoul player. The ensuing penalty kick was blocked by Sanfrecce goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi.
"I thought it was a normal play," Mizumoto said after the match. "The referee said I was pulling on [the Seoul player], but I don't think that's what I was doing."
Five minutes later, defender Kazuhiko Chiba was shown a yellow card for another incident of minimal contact. That penalty kick was converted by Seoul striker Rafael Costa, becoming the final play of the game.
“There was an unstoppable force working against us,” said Sanfrecce manager Hajime Moriyasu, who attempted to confront Al Marri before being restrained by officials. “The officiating became one-sided as soon as we scored our second goal.
"It's hard to win a game that's being controlled like that. What's most disappointing is that the players weren't rewarded for their great effort."
It was far from the first officiating controversy to take place in South Korea in recent years. Almost one year ago, Iranian referee Mohsen Torki called four penalties against Kashiwa Reysol over the course of their 6-2 win at Suwon Bluewings.
The 2002 World Cup co-hosts' run to the tournament’s semi-finals was also marred by suspicious refereeing decisions during the Taeguk Warriors' knockout stage wins against Italy and Spain.
“I watched the replay and it was an obvious penalty,” FC Seoul manager Choi Yong-Soo told reporters when asked about the decision.
With four games played, Sanfrecce are in second place in Group F with five points; FC Seoul also have five points but are in fourth place due to tiebreakers.