Our Twitter plugin isn’t working while we recoup from our hacker/plug-in fail double whammy earlier in the week, but I made this little video of the K League’s exciting first round for us to enjoy.
— Taeguk Warriors (@taeguk_warrior) March 6, 2017
Ulsan 2:1 Pohang
Gwangju 1:0 Daegu
Sangju 1:2 Gangwon
Incheon 0:1 Jeju
Seoul 1:1 Suwon
Jeonbuk 2:1 Jeonnam
Seongnam 0:1 Busan
Ansan 2:1 Daejeon
Gyeongnam 1:0 Asan
Busan 2:1 Seoul E-Land
Anyang 1:2 Suwon FC
- Ulsan were dominant against Pohang on the weekend, though the scoreline reflects a slightly closer affair. It could have been far worse for Ulsan, however, as Jung Jaeyong arguably could have been sent off for the dangerous high boot earlier in the match, which forced Pohang captain Hwang Jisoo to leave the pitch. Hwang will now be out for 3 months due to a nasal fracture. Jung went on to score a brace and cancelled out Yang Donghyun’s equalizing goal. The Tigers are looking like a team to be reckoned with.
- Gwangju’s lone goal against Daegu was really all that seems to have happened in what was a fairly paltry affair. I didn’t watch the game and only caught bits and pieces of the highlights, so I can’t comment first-hand on the game, but I am hearing that Daegu was quite poor. Unsurprising, given that they haven’t added anything to be their line-up after winning promotion. It could be shades of Daejeon 2015 and a very, very long season for the recently promoted side.
- Though they are building this nice football-specific stadium, supposedly also to “help sound reverberate and create a fan-based atmosphere,” so I genuinely hope they do remain up. These are the kinds of stadiums clubs like Daegu should be building, even with gorgeous (but empty) World Cup stadiums in the region.
- I didn’t see anything of Sangju-Gangwon, but I’ll try to watch those clubs next week. Both are intriguing – Sangju’s got a flurry of fleet-footed players including probable KNT leftback selection Hong Chul and forwards like Yun Jutae and Joo Minkyu. Gangwon of course splashed the cash in the winter and it seems to be paying off already, with Lee Keunho’s brace being the difference there.
- Great crowd at Incheon but they seem to be missing Kevin Oris, their ex-talisman. They’ve replaced him with Dalibor Veselinovic but he didn’t cause Jeju too many problems. Though Park Jinpo’s horror challenge deservedly got him sent off as players re-adapt to the full speed of competitive games – some better than others.
- Kim Minwoo looks promising. Seo Jungwon signed the former Sagan Tosu captain not just for his technical ability but also his incredible adaptability. Kim played as left wingback in the first two games of the season (in the ACL) and then shifted over to a more natural position of his, right wing-forward (in a 3-4-3). He scored a great goal to give Suwon the lead and with some attacking options now out of the fray for the national team, Kim could at least earn himself a call-up to train with Stielike’s men.
- Suwon were indeed dominant in the first half where there certainly was a tactical battle of sorts (that I don’t have the time, talent nor effort to properly analyze, so I’ll give the skinny). Both teams played very compactly with high lines and neither team really had a specific player’s pace to try and break it with – instead both sides tried to press aggressively and limit time on the ball. Suwon won that battle in the first half, with Seoul’s pass completion around an unworkable 59% in the first frame. The capital club’s backline – notably Kim Keunhwan and even the usually reliable Osmar – constantly turned over the ball. The Bluewings’ ability to perfectly and indefatigably execute immediate pressing on Seoul’s players caused palpable discomfort and stymied any forward-going strategy Hwang Sunhong had chalked up.
- Seoul’s first half failures might have been spurred on by the interesting midfield Hwang opted to play – Yun Illok and Ko Yohan sitting on top of Osmar. Neither Yun or Ko are natural central midfielders, and yet they occupied those roles in the first half. Jae Chee opined in our Tavern Podcast that perhaps this was Hwang trying to revive the famed “steel-taka” football at his new club – a brand that is aggressive and foul-accumulating. Perhaps playing the mobile Yun and Ko was part of that strategy? I don’t really know, but it didn’t work.
- However, in the second half, Suwon waned and Seoul’s introduction of Joo Sejong and Lee Seokhyun allowed Yun to find his natural winger position (a little-known youngster had started as a winger to accommodate the U-23 rule). This brought a stability and a shape that Seoul just didn’t have the first half, and former Bluewings player Lee Sangho’s tap in from a recycled set piece gave Seoul a deserved share of the spoils in a very Jekyll and Hyde Super Match.
- Hot take on the Challenge – really none of the contenders stood out as an automatic league winner. Seongnam underwhelmed, but Busan weren’t that good either. Daejeon’s team was littered with black holes while Suwon FC did end up going behind to Anyang before clawing back.
- Congrats to Ansan Greeners however who have won their first game as a franchise. Though honestly, what is a Greener? Apparently it’s somebody who loves the environment, but then why is the club motto “Let’s Howl”? Because Wolves and trees? Anyway. A cautionary tale to any team who decides to let their newborn fan base decide the club name. Still more imaginative than Seoul E-Land FC though.
- All in all, a fun week.
We get a reprieve from the ACL midweek (unfortunately) but there is some KFA Cup action at the low levels if you’re into that. Next weekend brings one eye-grabbing fixture – Jeonbuk travels to Suwon, where the Bluewings will celebrate the season’s opening at the Big Bird and honor former player Kwak Heeju, who took his retirement over the winter. 10 other games, all 22 K League teams in action across 2 divisions, we can’t wait!
If any of you want to request a certain “feature” about the K League or any article in general, just let us know in the comments. It could be the bringing back of Tavern Match of the Day, or some analysis, or something more stats-y (ask the question and I’ll see what we can do)… it’s up to you – you make up the Tavern and we need you around to keep us in business.
Let us know if you were at a K League game this week!