Imagine being the best at something in an entire continent; the best cauliflower farmer in North America, or the number one expat pub quiz participant in Asia. Whatever it is, it would still be impressive, right?
This season, Jeju United were striving to become the best club side in Asia as they competed in the Asian Champions’ League (ACL) for the first time in their history. Alas, as I guess sharper readers have garnered from the use of the past tense “were” as opposed to the present tense “are,” Jeju contrived to go out of the competition at the first hurdle.
In retrospect it was probably the absence of clinical finishing (as is so often the case with Jeju) in the first hour of the first group game that prevented Jeju from progressing. Jeju had several very good chances in the first half against Chinese side Tianjin Teda and hit the upright a couple of times too.
Despite their early superiority, they still looked lethargic, like this was their first game after the winter break. Once Tinjian scored a very poorly defended goal in the 55th minute, the game drifted aimlessly away into what proved to be a very costly one-nil defeat for Jeju.
Jeju then rallied to record a cracking 2-1 victory in Melbourne against the rather presumptuously named Victory. After this, things got better again with a phenomenal 2-1 win over perennial ACL competitors Gamba Osaka. This was easily Jeju’s best performance of the season so far (in any competition). They played the kind of fluid, vibrant, attacking football that took them so close to the K-League title last term and beat an excellent Osaka side.
Six points from three games was an excellent start, but alas as Sir Isaac Newton said “what goes up must come down” (or something like that), and boy did Jeju come down. They got spanked in their next two away games, 3-1 in Osaka and 3-0 in Tianjin, leaving them with quite a big mountain to climb going into the final group game at home against Melbourne. Jeju had to win and hope that Tianjin (who had already qualified) would beat or draw with Osaka in Osaka. Jeju were favorites in their game, and Tianjin were top of the group having beaten the Japanese side in China so … so nothing.
Jeju drew, and Osaka won, so no cigar, bye bye Jeju.
Hopefully this will have been a good learning experience for what is still a relatively young squad, and hopefully Jeju can reach this competition next year and try again with a bit of added common sense because when they were good they were excellent and when they were bad they were bloody awful. If they were OK when they were bad they might have made it.
Anyhow, with Jeju’s dreams of continental domination dashed against the rocks of fate and sloppy defending, they can concentrate on the league.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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