Reds’ loss hard to take

Disappointed Adelaide United coach Joe Mullen admits his team’s exit from the ACL Champions League is a bitter pill to swallow.

Disappointed Adelaide United coach Joe Mullen admits his team’s exit from the ACL Champions League is a bitter pill to swallow.

The Reds bowed out of the competition following a 3-2 loss to Jeonbuk Motors in a round of 16 clash at Hindmarsh Stadium on Wednesday night, twice coming from behind to equalise and sending the match into extra time.

But Jeonbuk substitute, star striker Lee Dong-Gook, dealt the knockout blow four minutes away from a penalty shootout.

Mullen said he was delighted with the performance of his side despite coming out on the wrong end of the scoreline. He praised his players’ resilience and resolve in sending the match into extra time.

“Obviously the result is very hard to take,” he said.

“To be honest I thought we played some really good football and I thought the team did exceptionally well. They showed great character tonight, to come back twice, full credit to them.”

“The result of course didn’t go our way but I thought they did their football club, their city and the A-League proud tonight.”

Jeonbuk appeared at times a much sharper outfit with slick passing and quality movement off the ball.

The Reds were often exploited in wide areas with Choi Taeuk down the left and Brazilian Eninho causing headaches on the right, before finishing the match with a brace.

Mullen was full of compliments for his opponents, clearly impressed with their style of play but stopped short of conceding his side was outplayed.

He highlighted the fact United pushed the K-League champions to extra time and almost snatched a victory, saying either side could have progressed to the quarter-finals.

“They’re last year’s K-League champions. You don’t become champions if you’re an average team,” he said.

“They’re a very good football side. So to stay with them and to threaten … I think in the end the game came down to a little bit of a lottery. It could have gone either way.”

Mullen lamented a poor first half and said United was too slow coming out of defence.

Once the Reds regained possession in the back half, their build-up was slow and reminiscent of some poor Hyundai A-League form and not the crisp, sweet counterattacking brand displayed in the AFC Champions League.

The prolonged build-up allowed Jeonbuk to get numbers behind the ball and make it difficult for United to break down the Korean defence.

“I think the first half we could have probably moved the ball a lot quicker going forward,” he said.

“I think our runs in the front third could have been a little bit quicker. Going back and looking through it, the first half we probably could have done a bit better.”

The stand-in coach agreed the best chance fell to captain Travis Dodd late in the first half, but said the Reds created enough opportunities and should have made the most of their chances.

“It wasn’t the only chance but it was the clearest one,” he said.

“No player means to miss chances. He did very well to get in there. We’ve been working on that for the last 10 days so for him to get in that position was good.”

Mullen said ultimately United’s failure to score more than two goals is the reason Jeonbuk Motors bundled the Reds out of the ACL.

“I thought we had more clear-cut chances and we didn’t take them, and to not score more than twice cost us. Unfortunately he didn’t take it, but that’s football. Jeonbuk are in the quarter-finals and we’re not,” he said.