Adelaide United reach AFC Champions League quarter-finals

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Adelaide United extended their dream run into the AFC Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday, as Uzbek outfit Bunyodkor stunned former winners Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.

Australia’s Adelaide, who were forced to come through qualifying, squeezed into the last eight with a 1-0, backs-to-the-wall victory over Japan’s Nagoya Grampus, as Bunyodkor won by the same margin in Seongnam.

Goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic was the hero for Adelaide, the 2008 runners-up, as he made three remarkable saves to protect their lead after defender Jon McKain scrambled the ball over the line in the 41st minute.

Galekovic brilliantly kept out a header from Nagoya’s Australian international striker Josh Kennedy in the 33rd minute.

He then pulled off another fabulous one-handed stop to deny Takahiro Masukawa on 63 minutes, and tipped a blazing volley from substitute Mu Kanazaki over the bar 12 minutes later.

“The gods were shining on us tonight big-time,” Reds’ coach John Kosmina admitted. “We rode our luck a little bit and we weren’t on our game but we got out of it what we put in.”

A place in the last eight is a major fillip for Adelaide, who lost the 2008 final to Japan’s Gamba Osaka, after a dismal A-League season in which they finished second-last and suffered a sharp drop in attendance.

They now go into the two-legged quarter-finals in September, with their opponents to be decided by a draw next month.

“These guys have worked their butts off the last couple of months and they got some reward tonight for it,” Kosmina said.

Meanwhile Uzbek champions Bunyodkor had defender Hayrulla Karimov to thank as he converted a 52nd-minute penalty after an infringement by Seongnam’s Lim Jong-Eun.

The demise of Seongnam, the 2010 winners, leaves just one South Korean club still in the competition in the shape of Ulsan Hyundai, who play J-League champions Kashiwa Reysol on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s other match features Italian World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi, who will try to lead his new Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande into the quarter-finals against FC Tokyo in just his third game in charge.

Last week three Saudi teams reached the quarter-finals – two-time winners Al Ittihad, Al Hilal and Al Ahli – along with Sepahan of Iran.

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