Former winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors are fully focused on returning to the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League according to 2012 AFC Player of the Year Lee Keun-ho, despite the K-League Classic leaders heading to Japan for Wednesday’s quarter-final second leg with Gamba Osaka all square following a goalless draw between the pair last month.
Jeonbuk were again unable to make full use of home advantage at Jeonju World Cup Stadium last month having also drawn the first leg of their last 16 tie with Beijing Guoan, although 2008 champions Gamba were indebted to goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi.
But having managed a 1-0 win in the return fixture against Beijing in China in May’s last 16 second leg, 2006 winners Jeonbuk know a similar result at Expo ’70 Commemorative Stadium will ensure a return to the semi-finals for the first time since reaching the 2011 final.
“We are focusing on the semi-finals over the quarter finals, so it should be motivation enough for us. Fortunately, in the K-League, we are having good results therefore we can focus more on the AFC Champions League,” said Lee, who won the AFC Champions League in 2012 with fellow K-League Classic side Ulsan Hyundai.
“The most important thing is goals because an away goal could be an advantage, especially the first goal which is really important.
“I was satisfied as we played as we wanted in the first leg, but it was a little bit short of what we wanted as we couldn’t score a goal.”
Lee played for just under an hour of the first leg last month on his first continental outing for Jeonbuk, having returned to Korea Republic on loan from Qatar’s El Jaish over the summer.
The 30-year-old had already experienced the AFC Champions League this season after featuring twice for El Jaish in the play-offs earlier this year having played an instrumental role in Ulsan’s 2012 success which saw the midfielder named the AFC Player of the Year.
“We can achieve a good result in the second leg as we drew 0-0 in the first,” added 2012 AFC Champions League MVP Lee.
“I am satisfied with the level of play in the first leg through strong pressing and our good physical fitness, but we need to create chances in the second leg.”
Choi Kang-hee’s Jeonbuk are currently eight points clear at the top of the K-League Classic table following Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat by Ulsan, although only four players including Lee who featured in the first leg against Gamba started at Ulsan Munsu Stadium.
And despite the midweek defeat, Jeonbuk’s chances of claiming the result they need next week appear to be boosted by the suspension of Gamba striker Takashi Usami, who has netted four goals for the J.League side in the competition this season.
“Usami is a great player, but the other players who were replaced in the second half, are also good players,” said Lee.
“Therefore, I think Usami being out doesn’t have too much effect on the match. We just need to play well.”