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Soccer-Seoul bank on fitness to outrun Guangzhou in second leg

Reuters

By Peter Rutherford

SEOUL, Oct 31 (Reuters) - FC Seoul have their backs to the wall in the Asian Champions League final against Guangzhou Evergrande but striker Dejan Damjanovic believes superior fitness could help the Koreans emerge victorious in next month's second leg.

Damjanovic, who grabbed a late equaliser to salvage a first leg 2-2 draw against the big-spending Chinese in Seoul last weekend, said if his side could avoid stupid mistakes and take their chances, they would walk away as Asian champions.

"We fought very hard, this is the Korean style of football. The K-League is a really tough league and when you play every game you feel this," the Montenegrin international said in a news release on Thursday.

"You saw during the last 10-15 minutes that the Chinese players could not run, they couldn't play, and they were lucky we missed a few chances.

"And believe me, it will be the same in the second leg. That is the K-League style because we can run."

Sergio Escudero opened the scoring for Seoul on Saturday before the Chinese champions, coached by Italian Marcello Lippi, silenced the home crowd with goals from Brazilian Elkeson and China international Gao Lin.

Damjanovic slotted home a cross from Escudero with seven minutes left to give Seoul hope in the Nov. 9 second leg.

"Guangzhou showed that they are a really good team, but we had more chances and conceded some stupid goals from our mistakes," he added.

"A 2-2 draw is not that bad and we showed that we can play against them. All of my team mates showed we are a good team and that Guangzhou are not unbeatable."

Guangzhou's Gao said his side would improve in the home leg at Tianhe Stadium.

"We were a bit nervous in the first 20 minutes but it was the final of the AFC Champions League and it took a bit more time to mentally get into shape," he added.

"But after 20 minutes, I felt we were able to play normally.

"If we can score two goals in the away game, we will do better in our home match."

With away goals counting double if the tie ends in a draw, Guangzhou start the second leg as hot favourites to emulate Liaoning's 1990 Asian Club Championship success and make Lippi the first coach to win both the UEFA and Asian Champions League titles.

Also a World Cup-winning coach, Lippi won Europe's top club competition 17 years ago with Serie A side Juventus. (Editing by John O'Brien)

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