Lee backs Jeonbuk to rediscover ACL form

2013-03-10 11:48:21 GMT2013-03-10 19:48:21(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

SEOUL, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Former AFC Champions League top-scorer Lee Dong-gook has ruled out a revenge mission against China's Guangzhou Evergrande next week and insists 2006 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors are determined to put last year's disappointing group stage display firmly in the past.

Having reached the final for a second time just six months earlier, Jeonbuk failed to advance past the group stage for the first time last year after being unable to recover from beginning the campaign with back-to-back 5-1 defeats by Guangzhou and Japan's Kashiwa Reysol.

But after Jeonbuk began the 2013 edition with a 2-2 draw against Thailand champions Muangthong United last week, South Korea international Lee has backed K-League runners-up Jeonbuk to rediscover the form which led to the continental final and K-League title just 18 months ago.

"The failure in the group stage of the AFC Champions League last year was caused by injuries to key players. We won the same amount of games as the other teams in the group which means we were at the same level but we just failed to qualify from the group stage. But it now gives us more motivation for this season," said 33-year-old Lee, who still managed to find the net four times in the AFC Champions League last season.

"The team has changed a lot this season due to military service and also some players have transferred to other clubs, but we still have a group of talented players and our pre-season training camp in Brazil helped bring the team together so I still expect that we will be challenge for titles this season."

Veteran striker Lee was named Most Valuable Player after topping the scoring charts with nine goals as Jeonbuk reached the 2011 final only to lose on penalties at home to Qatar's Al Sadd having joined the club in 2009 after spells at English side Middlesbrough and fellow K-League side Seongnam Ilhwa Chumna.

"I am now one of the most experienced players in the squad and I know what to do with the new players on the pitch, at training and also away from the team," said Lee.

"As a senior player this is one of my responsibilities which I am happy to do for the club."

And the 2009 and 2011 K-League MVP opened this 2013 account last week as Jeonbuk twice let slip a lead against Muangthong before being forced to settle for a point following Jung Hyuk's unfortunate late own goal in the Group F opener after Belgian striker Kevin Oris had also struck at Thunderdome Stadium.

Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou, meanwhile, underlined their continental credentials as Marcello Lippi's side followed up reaching the quarter-finals on their debut appearance last year with an impressive 3-0 home win over 2007 champions Urawa Reds ahead of Tuesday's visit to Jeonju World Cup Stadium.

"Our group this year is very similar to last season. It will again be tough, but if we can stay away from unpleasant injures, we will be able to reproduce the performances from the 2011 AFC Champions League," added Lee.

"It is not about gaining revenge against Guangzhou this year; we just want to qualify from the group stage by playing well. The games with them last year were great games to play in and I am looking forward to the same again this year."

With Urawa also entertaining Muangthong at Saitama Stadium on Tuesday, K-League champions FC Seoul travel to Thailand to face Buriram United looking to build on last week's 5-1 win over Chinese Super League runners-up Jiangsu Sainty.

Last season's K-League top scorer Dejan Damjanovic and Yun Il-lok each scored twice for Choi Yong-soo's side as the two-time quarter-finalists proved too strong for AFC Champions League debutants Jiangsu in their Group E opener.

Jiangsu will hope for a better result as Dragon Okuka's side entertain Vegalta Sendai, who shared a 1-1 draw with Thai FA Cup winners Buriram in Japan last week.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Saudi Pro League champions Al Shabab travel to the United Arab Emirates to face Al Jazira in Group A, while Qatar's El Jaish entertain Iran's Tractorsazi Tabriz.

Last week, Al Shabab strolled to a 2-0 win over tournament newcomers El Jaish, while Mehdi Seyed-Salehi, Javad Kazemian and Masoud Ebrahimzadeh scored as Tractorsazi marked their AFC Champions League debut with an impressive 3-1 win over Al Jazira.

Finally in Group B, Uzbekistan champions Pakhtakor also make the trip to the UAE to face Al Shabab Al Arabi, while Saudi Arabia's Al Ettifaq entertain Qatar champions Lekhwiya.

Pakhtakor will look to build on last week's 1-0 home win over Al Ettifaq, while Lekhwiya will also be searching for a second win of the campaign after first half goals from Sebastian Soria and Youssef Msakni secured a 2-1 comeback victory over play-off winners Shabab Al Arabi.

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