Changwon: Luc Castaignos’ hopes Gyeongnam FC could qualify for the knockout rounds of the AFC Champions League never wavered even though he knew the likelihood of the club from Korea Republic advancing to the knockout phase of the 2019 edition was always remote.
Castaignos was on target for Gyeongnam as they defeated Johor Darul Ta’zim 2-0 and his goal briefly meant, with Kashima trailing against Shandong Luneng in the other game in Group E on Wednesday, that the K League side was on track to advance to the Round of 16.
But with defending champions staging a comeback to win 2-1 to join the Chinese Super League side in the Round of 16, the efforts of the Dutchman and his teammates turned out to be in vain.
“It wasn’t an easy game,” said the former FC Twente striker, who joined the club at the start of the season. “We knew we had a chance to go to the second round.
“We knew the chance was small but we believed in it. In the first half we had chances to control the game and in the second half we scored the goals. But in the end, if you know the other team is winning and you are winning also, it’s a difficult feeling when you don’t go to the next round.”
The 26-year-old, who put his team in front 65 minutes into the game before Takahiro Kunimoto added the second deep into injury time, is now hoping Gyeongnam can turn around their disappointing domestic form.
“The game was good for us,” he said. “I’ve had six weeks out with injury and I feel good. I had a little bit of cramp but I think it’s normal. This will give the team confidence to go up in the league because we have a really great team.
“Where we stand is not our position. We need to stand much higher. We have no time to enjoy this and I believe we will go up.”
The complete cast for #ACL2019 Round of 16. Who are you supporting? Tell us! pic.twitter.com/lJ2JaOVNqm
— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) May 22, 2019
Coach Kim Jong-boo echoed his forward’s sense that the win against the Malaysian Super League champions would give Gyeongnam a boost on the domestic front.
“It was our first time playing in the AFC Champions League and it wasn’t easy because we had to play both in the K League and the Korean FA Cup as well, but I think we did well,” he said.
“Tonight’s game was the last game for us but I’m satisfied because our players were able to come back from injury and Luc managed to score. Now we have to focus on the league and to play well.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t play with our best players because of injuries but the AFC Champions League has given us good experience and I believe we can try to do better the next time we qualify.”