Park Ji-sung makes return with Dutch club PSV in Champions League playoff

SEOUL, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) -- Park Ji-sung made a solid return with the Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in a UEFA Champions League playoff match in the Netherlands on Tuesday, helping the club hold the Italian opponent AC Milan to a 1-1 draw.

Park was a starter for PSV in the opening match of the two-leg playoff series at Philips Stadion in Eindhoven, making his first appearance with the club since ending a three-year run with the team in a previous stint.

The former South Korean captain and one-time Manchester United midfielder played 68 energetic minutes, covering plenty of ground and providing offensive sparks from the right wing. He was replaced by Florian Jozefzoon.

With PSV on attack in the eighth minute Park teed up Georginio Wijnaldum for a shot from the edge of the box. Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati made the save to keep it a scoreless match.

Milan quickly turned the tide as Stephan El Shaarawy headed in a cross by Ignazio Abate in the 15th minute.

Park helped PSV pull even against the visitors in the 60th. He set up Jeffrey Bruma for a mid-range shot, and Abbiati failed to get control of the ball. With the ball in the air, Tim Matavz put his head on the rebound for the equalizer.

Park left the pitch to a standing ovation midway through the second half.

The two sides will play their second leg at San Siro Stadium, Milan, next Wednesday. The aggregate score will determine who will advance to the group stage at the top European club competition. PSV and Milan are among 20 teams in the playoff.

Park had played for PSV from 2003 to 2005, and recently returned to the club on a one-year loan deal from Queens Park Rangers (QPR) in England.

In his first tour of duty with PSV, Park won the top Dutch league title in 2003 and 2005, and also lifted the Dutch Super Cup in 2003. The team reached the Champions League semifinals in 2005. PSV's current head coach, Phillip Cocu, is a former teammate of Park's on the club.

Park moved to Manchester United in 2005 to become the first South Korean in the English Premier League. It was during his stay with the top English club that he earned the nickname, "Three-Lung Park," for his work ethic and energy.

After the 2011-12 season, Park signed with QPR. After starting the season as the team's new captain, Park struggled with injuries all season and was stripped of his captaincy.

QPR ended up dead last among 20 Premier League clubs and was relegated to the second division, the Football League Championship, for 2013-14.

Park's contract with QPR expires at the end of next June.

Also on Tuesday (local time), Park was selected as one of PSV's top 100 players in the club's 100-year history. The team's website has been celebrating PSV's centennial by introducing the biggest stars in its history each day, with an accompanying highlight video clip.

Park was introduced under the headline "Mysterious Ji-Sung Park." The website noted that Guus Hiddink, who became PSV's head coach after guiding South Korea to the semifinals at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, brought Park and Lee Young-pyo, two key players in that improbable World Cup run, to the Netherlands.

The website called Park "mysterious" for his lack of English skills and stoic nature, a contrast to the smiling and cheerful teammate Lee. Yet it said Park gradually earned praise on the field.

"He was a strong midfielder with great lungs and an enormous perseverance," it said. "He was an asset to PSV."

The website also said Cocu reacquired a more "refined" Park from QPR for the South Korean's second stint.

Other players named to the top-100 list so far are former captain Ruud Gullit, Brazilian striker Ronaldo and Dutch winger Arjen Robben.

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