It feels like our domestic leagues have been largely ignored on the Tavern of late, and that’s mostly my fault. To compensate, here’s a quick post to update the happenings in the K League including last round’s action and a preview of the Asian Champions League Round of 16, with ALL FOUR Korean teams escaping the group stage. More after the jump!
K League Classic
I’ll review the round’s action and sort of intertwine each team’s recent form in each segment.
Seoul 3:0 Jeonnam
Seoul seem to be slowly, but surely, beginning to find things out, but creativity remains a major issue. With only 3 shots all game – all of which went in – Seoul may be getting more results and goals – including a 4 goal performance against Kashiwa and 3 goals here – but are still not addressing the main issue. Jeonnam, on their other hand, are a tad inconsistent, and this loss reflects that. Park Chu-young scored his first goal from open play in the K League this year in this game.
Jeonbuk 2:1 Daejeon
With the two joint-top scorers in the K League in Leonardo and Edu, and a knack of finding lots of chances and taking lots of shots, Jeonbuk are finding the results they need to have a relatively comfortable early lead atop of the K League. This victory against Daejeon saw them take 15 shots, while in their last 5 league wins, they have always taken more than 12. Daejeon are slowly finding their legs after a simply dismal start, with prolific striker Adriano on 5 goals already. A change in goalkeeping has helped, with Park Ju-won proving he should have remained as number 1 after promotion instead of winter signing Oh Seung-hoon. For all their flaws, I’ll choose to remain optimistic and hopeful and hope that Daejeon can complete their transition from longball domination to a defensively-competent counter-attacking team in the coming weeks after some consistency in the line-up in order to build chemistry. That was definitely a run-on.
Seongnam 1:0 Ulsan
Ulsan have got problems. Without a win since April 5th, and four consecutive 1-1 draws to finish April against teams they really should be beating (excepted Suwon), Yoon Jung-hwan’s squad really isn’t finding life easy in the K League. On Twitter, @kleague_kilt goes as far as calling them “awful”. A 1-0 loss to Seongnam takes the cake, although it is important to note the Magpies are solid at home. Still, Seongnam find themselves in 5th place, with the Asian Champions League to juggle. Not an easy task for a citizen club. Their goal was a late, rather fortunate winner by Jeong Seon-ho.
Suwon 1:0 Jeju
Save for the occasional hiccup, Suwon are also in good spirits 11 games into the season. They have 18 goals – tied with Jeonbuk for the most – and are on 20 points, enough for 2nd place. Their depth has served them well, and they are largely putting in consistent performances. A 5-1 win over Seoul in the SuperMatch a few weeks back didn’t hurt their morale at all. Jeju, for its part, is caught up in that cluster of teams on 13-15 points (places 3-10). Their recent form hasn’t been stellar but they are certainly on track to challenge for a Top 6 spot at the very least. Yeom Ki-hun scored off of a freekick in the only goal of this game.
Other results include:
Busan 1:2 Incheon – Busan blowing yet another lead and remain in 11th place, while Incheon actually wins instead of drawing thanks to a Lee Chun-soo PK and a Kim Jin-hwan winner.
Gwangju 0:0 Pohang – Pohang have been poor of late, while Gwangju have been on the road a lot and playing in a home stadium that really isn’t their home (due to reno I think on the Gwangju WC Stadium). Although this game I believe was their real home opener, the fireworks weren’t really there as Gwangju has sort of returned to expected form after a laser-quick start.
In the K League Challenge, very quickly, Daegu got off to a quick start and took the lead in the table early on, but a crushing 4-1 defeat to Suwon City combined with a Sangju Sangmu triumph against Anyang that included a Lee Jung-hyub goal sees Daegu fall into 2nd at the Army club’s expense. Seoul E-Land got a well-deserved 3rd win of the season after a slow-ish start with a 4-0 rout of Chungju Hummel. Gyeongnam, for their part, are not really enjoying life in the 2nd tier after relegation last year. They sit in 10th place/11 teams.
Asian Champions League Preview
For the first time since 2010, all four Korean teams advanced from the Group Stages to the Round of 16. Oddly enough, none of them won their group, they all ended up in different ties and if they all win, this ensures a Korean team will win the East Asian bracket and have a berth in the finals.
The first legs will all be held in Korea, tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday. Let’s break each pairing down:
Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Kashiwa Reysol
The most supported team in Korea welcomes Kashiwa Reysol, winners of a relatively easy group. Kashiwa are in poor form of late, with only 1 point in their last 4 games, including a shock defeat to Vietnamese side Binh Duong. Take into account the fact that Japanese teams do not traditionally travel well in the ACL and the balance could tip in Suwon’s favor. Indeed, all 3 of Kashiwa’s wins in the ACL were at home, and they were badly outplayed in their 0-0 draw at Jeonbuk earlier this season. Suwon rotated slightly on the weekend, and I think they can take a comfortable lead against one of the weaker Japanese teams to qualify for the tournament to start with. Prediction: 2-0 Suwon
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Beijing Guoan
Currently in third place in the Chinese Super League, Beijing Guoan will provide a stern test to the reigning Korean champions and their aspirations of Asian glory. Beijing, home of former FC Seoul striker Dejan Damjanovic, has only suffered two losses this season. They seem to be one of the more defensively sound sides in China, with only 12 goals conceded in 16 goals across all competitions this year. Jeonbuk have had the odd slip-up, but they need to take a lead to the Workers’ Stadium in front of a hostile, passionate Chinese crowd. Prediction: 1-0 Jeonbuk
FC Seoul vs Gamba Osaka
For all of Seoul’s scoring and creative woes, the capital club made it out of an underwhelming Group of Death. Their reward is a match against the reigning Japanese Treble holders, Gamba Osaka. Gamba won a weaker but competitve group F that saw three teams tie at 10 points on the final day (Thai side Buriram United was left out on a head-to-head tiebreaker). One of the better travelling sides in Japan, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if Seoul head to Japan no worse or better on paper than they came into the first leg. Prediction: 0-0 draw. Very Seoul-like.
Seongnam FC vs Guangzhou Evergrande
I have doubted Seongnam all season. I expected them to be the whipping boys of their group, despite it being slightly weaker than the others, not being able to cope with the rigours of playing in Asia and having to hold their own in Korea. Of course, I’ve been wrong. Seongnam’s defense-first approach has seen them only concede 5 goals in the ACL this year, the 3rd-best in a relatively goal-friendly East Asian half of the group stage. However, this test is certainly the greatest. The mighty Guangzhou Evergrande have come to town. Having averaged nearly 2.5 goals a game, the Chinese titans will be licking their chops as they head to Tancheon. But remember, Tancheon has a knack of being a “Fortress” of sorts for the Magpies, and I reckon that Kim Hak-bum’s sound defense strategy could prove victorious, at least at home. If there’s an upset to be had in this entire ACL Round of 16 bracket, it is this one. This should be a very interesting tie. Prediction: 1-0 Seongnam. What the hell.
That’s all for tonight. Jeonbuk and Suwon play tonight/tomorrow morning (Tuesday) at 7pm and 7:30pm KST respectively. ‘Till then. Jalgayo from the TSQ.