Ex A-League defender Alex Grant will play in next month's Asian Champions League final after his late goal helped Pohang Steelers edge dramatically past local rivals Ulsan Hyundai in the semi-final.
Grant's pivotal header in the 89th minute forced the match into extra-time on Wednesday, with his goal levelling it up at 1-1 at the Jeonju Stadium.
The semi-final went to penalties and Pohang emerged victorious, and will now face Saudi outfit Al Hilal in November, after Ulsan's Dutchman Davy Bulthuis missed the only penalty out of the 10 attempts.
Former Perth Glory centre back Grant will become one of only a select group of Aussies to have ever played in an Asian Champions League decider.
The result is a rich reward for the 27-year-old who left Perth in December to join the Steelers.
Speaking before the semi-final to FTBL, Grant admitted his time has been in Korea has been challenging after battling injuries and with Pohang's inconsistent K League 1 form.
"I’m enjoying it. [But] it’s been tough, it’s been an eye-opener," he said.
"It’s been a different experience, different to what I’ve been used to. Playing in Australia and playing in the UK, a lot more things are let go. The physicality is different for sure.
"Players seem to go down a lot more easily here so you just have to be a bit more careful and wary. The standard of football is decent. The Korean players are very technically very good.
"It’s a league where it feels like anyone on their day can turn up and win, whether it’s the bottom team against the top. It’s a really open league. That’s been interesting.
"[But] there’s been a lot of things I scratch my head at, and a lot of things that I really enjoy and I find refreshing about the football. The lifestyle in Korea has definitely been challenging, in many respects, and getting injured at the start probably didn’t help.
"Straight into my debut I picked up a knock on my foot and the prognosis didn’t seem too bad at the start. But after a couple of months you’re thinking why is this taking so long, and eventually I got back for the Champions League in June.
"And since I’ve gotten back I think I’ve been playing well to be fair, scoring a couple of goals."
Grant has managed only 13 appearances in the K League 1 this season because of an ankle complaint, but still notched two goals and an assist.
But in the Asian Champions League the defender has played eight times, including in the quarter-final win over Nagoya Grampus.
"To be fair we had a really tough group in the Champions League," Grant said.
"The Aussie teams pulling out made it easier for some of the bigger clubs in the other groups. We had Johor, Nagoya and Ratchaburi FC, and they were no mugs. We did well to get through the group, the boys played so well.
"We haven’t been able to find our best form in the league but I just think the Korean players, I have to give credit to them, when they’re asked to step up on the day they just give it everything, like it’s their last game on Earth.
"They throw everything on the line."
Despite thriving in Asia, the Steelers have struggled domestically and finished seventh in the regular season out of 12 teams.
Grant concedes the pressure and expectation levels in Korean football compared to those in Australia, as well as the cultural differences, have taken some getting used to.
"We’re getting to that business end of the season now where you’re looking at the table and thinking we could get sucked into something here," the ECU Joondalup product said.
"You have that sense around the club where you feel that there’s worrying times ahead if it continues. Whereas in the A-League and you’re at the bottom of the league it doesn’t really matter does it.
"You get a bit of stick on Twitter.. [and that’s it]. That’s why some things here are similar to the UK [in terms of the increased spotlight], which I’ve kind of enjoyed.
"[But here] you play, or you run until you break down, and then you’re on the scrapheap a little and then they don't know what to do with you. So that expectation is there and there is that pressure there as a foreigner.
"I’ve always been on the other side of it, especially in Australia where you have five foreigners on the books and you’re looking at them on match days.
"But coming here, not speaking the language, there’s obviously massive cultural differences and it can be a lot tougher and you do feel you have to perform. It is expected of you to get a result.
"I kind of feel blessed that I’m a defender, in that regard there’s more pressure on attacking players."
Manchester-born, Grant spent five years with the Glory after spells in the UK with Portsmouth, Stoke City and Macclesfield Town.
The centre back has been impressed with the technical skills on show in the K League 1, but feels the game are not necessarily faster or more intense than in the A-League.
"Because the schedule is so hectic, I don’t think the games feel as quick as what I’m used to," Grant, who has represented the green and gold at Under-17 level, said.
"You look at the physical stats, and I think I do a lot less here than I did in the A-League and that’s generally because both teams are pretty knackered, they’ve had a game three days earlier.
"The last four months has been pretty demanding and challenging on the body. I’ve not really noticed a massive change in terms of intensity.
"The A-League deserves credit as well, as sometimes the A-League gets knocked a little."