FC Seoul were absolutely dominant in the first leg of their 2016 Asian Champions League quarter-final with Chinese club Shandong Luneng. Club legend Dejan Damjanovic, top scorer Adriano and our favorite controversial striker Park Chuyoung all got on the scoresheet in a 3-1 victory at Sangam Stadium.
Recap after the jump + Video Highlights + Midweek recap of EFL Cup action.
It was a football masterpiece of sorts, a match worth waking up at 6:30am for. FC Seoul ran Shandong ragged in a near flawless first leg in front of 16,044 onlookers.
FC Seoul, as predicted, lined up in the 4-4-2 shape we have been accustomed to see since Hwang Sunhong took the reins. Park Chuyoung and Dejan were the strike force, with Asian Champions League-leading goal scorer Adriano on the bench. It was uncertain how Felix Magath would line up his Shandong side, but at kickoff it was evident that they too were going 4-4-2, with Graziano Pelle and Walter Montillo – the Italian and Argentinian international forwards – starting up top.
The first 20 minutes were a fairly dull affair, with the two Shandong forwards just pressing the centrebacks in possession. I’m not honestly sure what the tactic was – the idea maybe being that there would be an errant pass and Shandong could counter quickly? In truth, this seemed a largely ineffective idea to me… Osmar and Kwak Taehwi are seasoned veterans, and the former is an adept defensive midfielder, deep lying playmaker or even box-to-box… and Kwak Taehwi isn’t one to choke under pressure, and certainly wasn’t intimidated pre-match or during the match by Pelle.
Shandong seemed to only have two possibly effective ways of beating FC Seoul – longballs to Pelle, and over-running the Seoul rightback (Lee Kyuro in the first half, Ko Yohan in the second). The first strategy did not work whatsoever. Kwak Taehwi was simply exceptional, putting in one of those quietly effective performances that all defenders should aspire to. If Pelle ever did win a header, it was either a shot gone so awry it didn’t even make it into the highlight package or landing in simply ineffective locations. The second strategy was more effective given the relative weakness of Lee and Ko, but it never amounted to much except an 8th minute effort that Yoo Sanghyun saw wide anyways.
Shandong also was very content to let FC Seoul dictate the tempo of play (apart from their half-hearted two-man press), and this, for the entire game’s duration. They were fancying their chances, visibly, from a quick counter-attack or pressing wide players and choking them out of a passing option. In other words, Shandong let Seoul take the game to them.
Seoul delivered. In the 16th minute, the Dejan-Park Chuyoung partnership’s deadly capacities were revealed. Dejan broke two banks of four & split the centrebacks with a perfect pass to meet Park’s run – but the former Arsenal player volleyed wide, missing an absolute sitter. It took less than 100 seconds, however, for the strikeforce to create another chance – Park’s picturesque cross headed home easily by an on-form Dejan – now with 7 goals in 6 games.
31st minute: Park Chuyoung scores this time. Osmar intercepted a bad Shandong pass, the Spanish centreback working with Dejan, getting the ball to speedy wide midfielder Cho Chanho – another player neglected by Choi Yongsoo, heralded by Hwang Sunhong. Cho seems to also be a good passer – Park Chuyoung made an outside run and scored first time with his right foot, sending the ball through Chinese national team keeper Wang Dalei’s legs.
Cause for concern a few minutes later – botched clearance from a corner kick by FC Seoul means Walter Montillo has the ball just outside the penalty box – he’s brought down by Osmar. Ensuing free kick from a very good position and it’s a sweet finish. 2-1 now, but a vital away goal for Shandong.
Apart from that chance, however, Shandong never really looked like getting another. Seoul had sustained spells of posession in threatening positions – even summer loanee from Seoul E-Land, Lee Kyuro, almost got in on the act – tumbling over Wang Dalei’s diving challenge and almost bringing the ball in the net as he did a somersault in the air…
Adriano was subbed on around the 60th minute, sending Park Chuyoung to the wide midfield position, and at last we got to see the A-De-Park trio play together (as they have been named in Korean media). Did they ever deliver! Park hit a forceful pass to Dejan, who dragged a defender out of position before sublimely nutmegging him with a backheel… Adriano read the play perfectly, broke the poorly executed offside trap and slotted home for his 12th ACL goal. 3-1 Seoul.
With 20 minutes left to play, it was possible that Seoul could find a fourth goal. They were dictating the tempo and flow of the game. Park Chuyoung had a free kick chance in the 82nd minute that Wang Dalei made a mess of, but that was pretty much it for clear-cut opportunities.
Both South Korean teams leave the first legs of the quarter-finals relatively satisfied, though one’s progression seems more likely than the other’s.
Seoul played an excellent home game, and their only blemish was conceding that away goal. It makes the second leg far more interesting and will keep them alert. That being said, Felix Magath didn’t really seem to have much of an idea on how to stop Seoul today – there was too much space in between the lines, the centrebacks didn’t have much of a clue. Seoul’s passing play with endless amounts of triangles out wide would bring Shandong midfielders out of the compact shape they should have endeavored to keep, opening up the opportunity for a dangerous throughball from deep. Hwang Sunhong’s famed and much beloved “Steel-taka” philosophy is visibly bearing fruit in Seoul too. And with a very assured centreback duo in Kwak Taehwi and captain Osmar… it’s hard to see how a two-goal lead could be squandered.
Pelle was a virtual spectator today. It wasn’t 10 men + Pelle doing the heavy lifting, but simply 11 men who didn’t have much of a clue. Magath’s got some thinking to do if he wants to unravel Seoul in Jinan and salvage some pride out of a woeful year for the Chinese club.
Speaking of Pelle… Twitter was having some fun after the superb victory:
16,044 spectators at Seoul World Cup Stadium tonight. 16,045 if you count Graziano Pelle.
— 48 Shades Of Footy (@Kleague_Podcast) August 24, 2016
The blows just keep on coming https://t.co/hBozdNxDBi
— Tim Lee (@korfan12) August 24, 2016
Jeonbuk, on the other hand, aren’t in the driving seat – despite coming back home to the Jeonju Castle, where they’ve only lost one game all season (to Bucheon in the KFA Cup), Sven Goran Eriksson is ready to unleash the Hulk in the second leg where an away goal puts the Chinese club in a strong position.
What’s for sure, is that the 2nd legs in three week’s time (September 13th and 14th) are going to be ones to watch. If both Korean teams triumph, it will be a guarantee that East Asia will send a K League club to battle it out in November for Asian glory – and a ticket to the 2016 Club World Cup this December.
— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) August 24, 2016
Park Chuyoung officially won the Man of the Match award today (though everyone knows Dejan deserved it more). He’s back to his old self of late – the only Korean forward making intelligent runs, able to play deeper and create, and all with an eye for goal. He’s 32 years old, but you have to wonder, if this form continues, how much longer Uli Stielike will be able to ignore the veteran of 3 World Cups.
Two Korean Players Abroad were involved in the EFL Cup this week – it’s the Capital One Cup, but without the sponsor. Lee Chungyong started on the bench (good news, as perhaps it indicates that he’s first team calibre – for now) and was subbed on for a 20 minute stint. Crystal Palace beat Blackpool 2-0 and advance to the third round. Ki Sungyueng actually started the match, his first start of the 2016/17 season. Ki started in Sigurdsson’s #10 role, for this game at least, and Swansea won 3-1 at Peterborough.
We’ll have weekend listings tomorrow… for now, this poll:
— Tim Lee (@korfan12) August 24, 2016