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Ognenovski caps dream week with Asia title

Veteran defender Sasa Ognenovski capped off the week of his career by scoring to lead South Korean club Seongnam Ilhwa to the Asian Champions League title on Saturday.

Just five days after earning his first Socceroos call-up at the age of 31, Ognenovski cemented his reputation as one of the best defenders playing in Asia.

The skipper opened the scoring in his side's 3-1 win over Iranian side Zobahan in Tokyo and went on to be named both the man of the match and most valuable player of Asia's top club tournament.

Ognenovski, who also reached the 2008 ACL final with Adelaide United, will have little time to celebrate though as he joins up with the Socceroos squad to take on Egypt in a friendly international on Thursday (AEDT).

Having been overlooked by former Australia coach Pim Verbeek, Ognenovski has been thrown a lifeline by new boss Holger Osieck - who described him as scary - and will be out to book himself a spot in the squad for January's Asian Cup in Qatar.

His value for that tournament has sky-rocketed with his performances this season, with his stature and physical presence proving an asset against Asian opposition.

"I think he is the best stopper in the K-League," Seongnam coach Shin Tae-yong said of Ognenovski, who is also in the running for the Asian player of the year award.

"Whatever I ask of Sasa he will do 100 per cent.

"... When I was appointed head coach of this club I really wanted him to play for us.

"During the first half of last year he had difficulty adjusting to Korean football but this year he has played very well. He is used to living here and he plays a very important role for my team."

Ognenovski opened the scoring in the 29th minute at the Tokyo National Stadium when a throw-in created confusion in the goal-mouth, allowing him to snatch the ball and score.

Defender Cho Byung-Kuk then doubled the Korean side's advantage after the break before Zobahan found the net in the 67th minute through Mohammadreza Khala.

But Seongnam restored a two-goal cushion through Kim Cheol-Ho, to seal their first Asian title.

The club will now compete in next month's FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, where they will face the winners of the tie between hosts Al Wahda and Oceania champions Hekari United for the chance to play European champions Inter Milan in the semi-finals.

Adelaide reached the round of 16 of this year's tournament before being knocked out by Koreans side Jeonbuk Motors while Melbourne Victory failed to progress from the group stage.

The Victory will get another crack in next year's tournament, along with 2009/10 A-League champions Sydney FC.


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