Western Sydney Wanderers FC have taken a significant step towards a berth in the AFC Champions League final after holding FC Seoul to a 0-0 draw in their semi-final first leg in Korea on Wednesday night.
The Wanderers produced a trademark gritty defensive display to restrict the hosts to very few chances and will head back to Parramatta confident of getting the job done.
Without strikers Tomi Juric and Brendon Santalab – as well as utility Shannon Cole – through suspension, Tony Popovic’s side still managed to create opportunities but were held scoreless for the first time in the competition.
Importantly though, they were resolute in defence and now know a win in their home leg in two weeks will make them the first Australian club to make the Champions League final on their first attempt.
After enjoying large chunks of possession early on, the Wanderers were soon under pressure as the home side upped the tempo.
With Cha Du-Ri causing problems down the right and Sergio Escudero finding space around the box, Seoul probed constantly without really testing Ante Covic.
Their best sights of goal came from distance as both Vitor Saba and Mateo Poljak tried their luck without seriously threatening Yu Sanghun’s goal.
Desperate to find a way to unlock the Wanderers defence, Seoul coach Choi Yong Soo brought on his South American playmakers Everton Santos and Mauricio Molina on at the break.
And immediately they made a difference, in particular Molina who not only created chances for others but was a whisker away from breaking the deadlock midway through the second half.
Du-Ri’s drilled cross from the right pierced the Wanderers defence, with Molina’s volley flying inches wide of the post.
Saba came more into the contest as the match wore on and played a couple of brilliant through-balls that almost provided chances for Mark Bridge, while Labinot Haliti also blazed a great chance wide.
The Wanderers were chose to defend deeper late on as the home side pushed hard for a vital goal but the visitors’ organisation and structure held firm to leave the tie perfectly set up for the second leg on Wednesday 1 October.
FC Seoul 0
Western Sydney Wanderers 0