An electric first leg in Jeonju World Cup Stadium saw the hosts respond in style to Colombian winger Danilo Asprilla’s 63rd-minute half-volley, with deadly forward Leonardo producing a rapid-fire brace to earn them a slender 2-1 advantage.
The sides reconvene at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday, with Asia’s grandest club prize up for grabs. After a gripping opener full of chances for both combatants, UAE international Ahmed believes that the South Koreans are in for a shock if they think the job of adding a second continental crown is already complete.
“I’m from Al Ain, they must respect us because our team is a big team,” said the 33-year- old. “Also, Jeonbuk are a very good team, with some quality players.
“But when you go on the pitch you don’t think about reputations, only we play football.
“It’s 11 against 11. We’ll prepare now for the second leg.”
The Boss are also looking to add to a solitary ACL trophy, won in 2002/03’s inaugural running.
In South Korea at the weekend, they put the brakes on a Jeonbuk who began at high tempo in front of their fevered fans.
Asprilla’s valuable away goal then sparked a stunning retort as danger man Leonardo moved onto 10 strikes in 13 2016 ACL fixtures, with right-back Fawzi Fayez’s header off the line on 84 minutes preventing further damage from being wrought.
“For us, 2-1 outside our home is not a bad result, but hopefully we’ll give our best in the second leg in Hazza bin Zayed Stadium,” said Ahmed, who was nominated for 2014 AFC Player of the Year.
“But we still have the second half of this match and hopefully the cup will stay in Al Ain.”
Home comforts have been few and far between for the Boss in this year’s edition. They kicked off with a 2-1 loss to Qatar’s El Jaish in Group D, before drawing both legs in the Garden City during the round of 16 against Iran’s Zob Ahan and quarter-final versus Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv Tashkent.
Despite this, UAE left-back Mohammed Fayez remained confident of being able to “compensate the score” when the sides clash again.
“I think it is a positive result, not bad at all,” said the 27-year- old. “The great performance of the Al Ain players enhances our motivations for the home match in Al Ain, to perform the best, so we can compensate the score.”
LEONARDO THANKS FANS
Prolific forward Leonardo is hopeful of rewarding the passionate Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors support with victory in the 2016 AFC Champions League final.
Leonardo, 30, made it successive braces in home legs of the competition as his stunning 20-yard curler and composed penalty earned a come-from-behind 2-1 win against Al Ain. The first leg of the decider was played at a deafening Jeonju World Cup Stadium, which featured thousands of green flags and incessant chanting.
Such a vivid setting had an effect on the Brazilian ahead of next Saturday’s return clash at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
“I’ve been here four years and when I scored I wanted to show all the players, staff and fans that we are all together,” Leonardo told the AFC website.
“To show this mentality, I patted the emblem of the jersey. The fans were incredible and I feel quite emotional to experience this final with 40,000 people who came out on a cold night to support us. I hope some will come to Al Ain too, to hopefully celebrate victory with us and come back with the trophy.”
The ex-Brazil youth international’s first goal showcased his sharp intelligence, quick feet and lethal shooting ability as he earned valuable space before lashing in the equaliser.
“I expected today’s match to be hard and Al Ain put in a really good performance,” added Leonardo. “At half-time all the players talked with each other – we said we needed to concentrate and be more organised.
“All the Al Ain players prepared well against me but, despite this, I’m willing to play intelligently. Depending on how they play, I’ll choose to dribble or shoot.”