Incheon head coach Cho Sung-hwan said he was “grateful to the players” after the club booked their place in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL)먹튀검증 knockout stages with a win over Hai Phong.

Incheon were unable to find a way past Hai Phong FC in the ACL play-offs for the 2023/24 season after 90 minutes of stalemate at the Incheon Football Stadium on 22 February, and went on to win 3-1 in stoppage time thanks to goals from Hernandez and Gerso.

Incheon, who finished fourth in K League One last season, will be making their first ACL appearance in club history as Jeonbuk Hyundai, who have already secured their place in the ACL, reached the top of the FA Cup, and with the victory over Hai Phong, they are through to the group stage of the ACL.

The ACL group draw will take place on 24 April at 5pm at the AFC Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with group stage matches to follow in September.

Speaking to the media after the match, head coach Cho Sung-hwan said, “Firstly, we are celebrating our 20th anniversary and we are in the ACL group stage. I’m happy that we were able to fulfil the promise we made to our fans last year, but I wish we could have finished the game in 90 minutes with a good game management. The turf was in a bad state, and I think we damaged it by playing an extra 30 minutes. We will try to get a good result in the league game on Friday.”

On the game plan being disrupted by the early concession, he added: “It was a high-pressure game overall. It wasn’t an easy game and we conceded early, which made it difficult. However, I think it will bring a lot of experience to the team.”

Unlike the first half, Incheon rebounded after halftime. “In the league, we tend to play with a lower defensive line, but today we played with a higher line. In this situation, we re-ordered our defence where we were not organised. I asked them to be vigilant against plays that could lead to a goal,” he said, referring to his requests to the players.

As it was a 120-minute game, there were many changes in the attacking line-up. Mugosa and Chun Sung-hoon started, while Jerso and Hernandez also came on as substitutes and scored.

Cho saw this as a positive, saying, “I tried to put Hernandez on with a big lead. I think it’s positive that his teammates and the coaching staff trusted him, even though we didn’t have much time to prepare. We might have a physical problem against Suwon FC right now, but I think it will help us if we recover well. Playing well is one of our strengths, so even if the opponent knows it, we will continue to go for it and try to score goals,” he said, adding that he will focus on the performance of the forward line and recovering his physical strength.

He lamented the fact that the 120-minute game may cause stamina issues in the upcoming schedule. “You can see it in my face,” he said. “We started off poorly in the league, and we should have gained a lot of points, but we didn’t. I can’t help but think about the league now. It’s disappointing to win after 120 minutes of play. That’s how people feel,” he said, expressing his disappointment at not being able to seal the win early on.

“Thank you to the players,” Cho concluded the press conference. I want to say thank you to the players for overcoming a difficult match,” he said.

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