Incheon United of South Korea have proven themselves to be capable of matching it up with the big guns of Asian football after they had stunned Japanese powerhouses Yokohama F. Marinos with a 4-2 win away at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama on Tuesday’s AFC Champions League opener.
Second half substitute Hernandes Rodrigues was the star for the men in blue-and-black after he had scored a brace that sealed Incheon’s three points, after an entertaining first half that saw both sides play out a 2-2 draw.
Incheon got off to an excellent start after just eight minutes when Kim Do-hyeok sent Jung Dong-yoon down the left side. The resulting cross from the winger caused confusion in the Yokohama defense, leading goalkeeper Jun Ichimori to accidentally put the ball into his own net.
However, their lead lasted only nine minutes as the hosts pressed forward in pursuit of an equalizer. Asahi Uenaka’s bouncing shot was initially stopped by Kim Dong-heon, but shortly after, the equalizer came when Takuma Nishimura met Kaina Yoshio’s corner, redirecting the ball in with his shoulder.
Kevin Muscat’s Yokohama side had an opportunity to take the lead when former Arsenal man Ryo Miyaichi was thwarted by Dong-heon, and the goalkeeper made an impressive reflex save on the line to deny Uenaka’s deflected attempt.
The game swung back and forth, with Stefan Mugosa nearly taking advantage of a poorly struck goal kick by Ichimori in the 34th minute.
Incheon are currently 7th in the K League 1, tied in a 3-way battle between themselves, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, and FC Seoul for a spot in the league’s championship group for this season, while Yokohama are currently 2nd in the J.League 1 and the defending champions are still partaking in this year’s title race. However, the differences in league positions were discarded in this match as Incheon shockingly went 2-1 up in the 37th minute.
Gerso Fernandes sprinted his way onto Kim Do-hyeok’s powerful forward pass, outpacing Ryotaro Tsunoda and scoring. The Bissau-Guinean winger came close to adding a third for Incheon in the 41st minute, but he hit the crossbar with Ichimori beaten.
Yokohama equalized just before halftime when Miyaichi met another corner from Yoshio at the near post and directed the ball in, ensuring that both teams would enter the dressing rooms with the scoreline well-poised at 2-2.
The pace of the game slowed down after the break until Incheon head coach Jo Sung-hwan brought in Hernandes just after the hour mark, and the Brazilian proved to be the game-changer.
Seven minutes after entering the fray, Hernandes sprinted from deep inside his own half towards the Yokohama goal, striking the post with a powerful shot that left Ichimori with little chance.
By the 75th minute, Hernandes had put the South Koreans back in the lead, receiving Paul-Jose M’Poku’s through ball after his fellow substitute made a strong run through the Yokohama midfield. Hernandez’s shot went under Ichimori’s body as Incheon once again left the Nissan Stadium completely speechless.
Four minutes later, Hernandez struck again, securing an impressive victory and concluding an exhilarating match, ensuring that Incheon started off their debut ACL campaign in the best way possible.