2019-20 KPA News Roundup: Lee KI Fan Controversy, Hwang HC in the UCL & More

Photo Credit: Paul Ellis/AFP

Lee Kang-in Scores Debut Goal in Mestalla Thriller + Controversy Over Young Bilbao Fan

On September 25, Lee Kang-in would net his debut Valencia goal in a thriller of a match against Getafe on La Liga’s sixth matchday. He would slot in a tap-in in the 39th minute assisted by fellow winger Rodrigo to his right. Although LKI’s goal would lift Valencia to a 3-1 lead, his club would ultimately give up two consecutive goals that would leave the match at a 3-all draw. In all, the goal would make LKI the youngest foreign player in history to score in the Oranges’ kit and the second Korean overall to score in La Liga (Park Chu-young being the first with Celta Vigo). 

LKI has made yet another appearance for Valencia as a substitute for Maxi Gomez in a Champions League match against Ajax last Wednesday. He would go on to pick up a yellow card in the 3-nil home drubbing. So far this season, LKI has made six total appearances for his squad, including in two UCL matches. With new manager Albert Celades at Valencia’s rudder, the 18-year-old is bound to make some key appearances for the Spanish side within the next few months. 

However, it hasn’t been all fun and games for LKI over the last few weeks. A week ago, a video surfaced online showing the young star seemingly ignoring a young Valencia fan while donning headphones before a match against Athletic Bilbao. Teammates pointed the child out before LKI eventually got out of his seat to have his picture taken with the young boy. Australian media outlet SBS would globally publicize the footage to the detriment of LKI’s little-developed off-the-pitch reputation.

It wouldn’t take long for him to respond to media outburst and fan backlash. LKI quickly dispelled rumors that he was deliberately ignoring the fan due to indifference through an Instagram post. In it, he explains a club briefing that had informed him of fans who were selling player shirts online. LKI claims he had simply wanted to prevent such an event from happening under his own account that day. Unfortunately, events transpired out of context, nearly tarnishing his reputation at an early stage of his career. 

With all the dust hopefully settled, LKI is currently preparing for the upcoming international break in the KNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Sri Lanka and North Korea. Valencia’s next La Liga match involves an away encounter against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, October 19 at 10 a.m. EST. Valencia, currently in eighth place in their domestic standings, hope to match their upcoming Madrid rivals at 15 points in the La Liga season. 

Hwang Hee-chan Impressive in the UCL, Destroys Van Dijk

If Hwang Hee-chan isn’t Premier League ready now, then it’s likely that he’ll never be. I’m sure you’re familiar with the news already, but it can’t go without saying: HHC destroyed Virgil van Dijk. They say few attackers can dribble past the Liverpool defender, but HHC did that and more in Red Bull Salzburg’s 3-4 defeat to Liverpool last Wednesday. 

Let’s start off at how HHC’s short but blissful run at the UCL Group Stage began. Although overshadowed by Erling Haland’s hat trick, HHC managed one goal and two assists in an electrifying 6-2 victory over Genk three weeks ago. In transition from a botched Genk pass, he would score his lone goal, giving his club a 3-nil lead in the 36th minute. His passes were impactful as well, notching one to Haland for the club’s second goal after edging out a difficult one-on-one matchup against a Genk defender.

Salzburg were more than impressive, but many were quick to write off the performance, attributing the goal-heavy effort to poor defense from an obscure opponent. Then, HHC’s club came back last Wednesday for more blood against last year’s UCL winners, Liverpool. With the Red Bull club trailing the Reds by a scoreline of 3-nil towards the end of the first half, many believed the match was already wrapped up. The next logical objective for Salzburg in their European timeline would have been to hope for an upset against Napoli at home. 

But then… I won’t even say it again. You can watch HHC become only the third player to dribble past Virgil van Dijk since he started wearing the Liverpool jersey here. With the game seemingly already dead in the 39th minute, the 23-year-old managed to pull off a shot through some splendid footwork, breaking VVD’s ankles in the process. Now imagine if we could get that tape rolling again, this time with HHC in a Spurs jersey in the Premier League (sorry, not sorry Michael). Then maybe we can get on to something here.  

Former Major League soccer veteran and American manager Jesse Marsch would inspire Salzburg back into the game with a profanity-laced, multilingual half-time address. HHC’s club would eventually falter to Liverpool to a Mohamed Salah strike in the 69th minute. Still, the Austrlan club managed to tie the game up at three goals a piece at one of Europe’s toughest venues for away opponents. That’s certainly nothing to put their heads down about. 

When I first wrote about HHC a few weeks ago, I was sure his prior European experience with Salzburg would do him decently this season. Never, though, did I expect the young winger to flourish so early in Europe’s premier club football competition. How do you think HHC and Salzburg will fare down the road in the UCL this season? Also, do you think HHC is top league material (EPL, La Liga)? Let us know in the comments below. 

Hwang Ui-jo Adopting New Role as Winger at Bordeaux 

With the Ligue 1 season a quarter of the way through, Hwang Ui-jo has eased into his new environment with appearances in eight out of nine league matches. Accompanied by a stronger attacking unit at Bordeaux, the 26-year-old has had to try his hand at a variety of attacking roles, including centre-forward and a two-man partnership with Jimmy Briand. Lately, however, HUJ has been employed as a winger, a role that he never played much in Japan. 

In that position, he would manage a 28-meter golazo last week against Toulouse, blasting a right footer into the far post corner. The goal would prove to be the final blow of the match as  the Girondins would go onto win the away game by a 3-1 scoreline. They now sit fourth in the Ligue 1 standings behind PSG, Nantes, and Angers respectively. Despite fierce competition, HUJ’s club has managed to pull out front as early contenders for a Champions League spot. 

Showing signs of settling into his new environment, HUJ may not find himself playing regularly at the pure striker role for at least the rest of the calendar year. Bordeaux’s attack is quite strong at the moment and is due for some shifts over the next few months. Understandably, HUJ may need some time settling to new positions, but he’s shown he can make proper adjustments to give his team an attacking boost.

As we reach the dawn of October international qualifiers, Paulo Bento may experiment with a 4-3-3 formation that lines HUJ with Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan up front. All three players are currently on fire and may spend some time collaborating on the attacking line over the next week.

Sonny the Silver Lining in Spur’s Woeful Start to Season + Transfer Rumors 

Since crushing Crystal Palace by four goals to nil last month, Spurs’ campaigns in both domestic and European competition have fallen flat to the point of crisis. With a lack of team cohesion in the air, manager Mauricio Pochettino must now act as team psychologist while desperately trying to get his team back on track to success. Although the team boasts a successful run to last season’s UCL Final, Tottenham hasn’t won an away league match since last January. 

Spurs atrocious league form has caught up with them to the Champions League this season with an uninspiring draw against Olympiacos and a 2-7 loss against Bayern Munich last Tuesday. In the midst of this mess, Son Heung-min has managed to stay on top of his game, even scoring the first goal in last week’s North London nightmare. With Spurs out of Carabao Cup and Premier League title contention, many are contemplating moves for Tottenham’s most coveted players.

In an interview with Italian radio station Radio Marte, SHM’s agent Thies Bleimeister rose rumors about a potential transfer for his South Korean client. In reference to his favorite player’s (Maradona) stint in Italy, Bleimeister gave noise to his long-time dream of bringing one of his players to Napoli. He would specifically raise the prospect of SHM in Serie A, claiming that the forward’s was quite fond of Italian food and culture. 

Other clubs are seemingly knocking on the 27-year-old’s door as well. Sports Mole has recently reported that the Spanish giants Real Madrid are gearing up to launch a £71 million bid for SHM, possibly for next summer’s transfer window. Whether to Spain or Italy, the KNT’s biggest star could depart North London soon if the current downward trend at Tottenham persists throughout the season. SHM deserves a trophy or two in the prime of his career, and he may not get that at Spurs. Sadly. 


2 Comments

  1. HHC’s foray into BL2 still concerns; the year previous he was great at Red Bull, sorta like now. If he learned valuable lessons & genuinely improved while suffering at Hamburg (?), and this season is proof of that rather than proof of his ceiling/lvl, then maybe a move back up to a better league could work.

    • My thought is that last year was an aberration. He had just come from a freakishly busy summer where he did a WC and Asian Games, which he will never have to do ever again! The injuries really hurt him and he may have been a poor fit for what Hamburg was trying to do in BL2.

      This season just feels like the breakout where he lets go of those old bad habits and earns a move to a bigger league.

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