Round 3 of the K League Classic was this past weekend, and the K League Challenge kicked off their 2014 season as well.
K League Classic – Round 3
Pohang Steelers 2 – 1 Suwon Samsung
Jeju United 1 – 0 Seongnam FC
Gyeongnam FC 2 – 3 Jeonnam Dragons
Sangju Sangmu 0 – 0 Jeonbuk Motors
FC Seoul 0 – 1 Busan IPark
Ulsan Hyundai 3 – 0 Incheon United
K League Challenge – Round 1
Gangwon FC 0 – 3 Korean Police FC
Daegu FC 2 – 1 Gwangju FC
Suwon City 4 – 1 Daejeon Citizens
Bucheon 1995 2 – 3 Chungju Hummels
Goyang Hi 1 – 1 Anyang FC
K League Mini-Recaps
Pohang 2 Suwon 1
It was a great start for Suwon, who took the lead in the 5th minute with a goal from Go Cha-Won. There was a slightly scary moment for Suwon fans (and maybe NT fans) as Pohang striker Cho Chan-Ho collided with Suwon keeper Jung Sung-Ryong, catching the Korea number 1 in the lower regions with his knee. Jung was able to carry on, but Cho was subbed off for youngster Moon Chang-Jin. Moon Chang-Jin then almost scored a wonderful free Kikick, but it was just a bit too high with Jung firmly rooted to the ground. Yeom Ki-Hoon called for a penalty later, as his shot was blocked by Kim Jae-Sung’s arm, but the referee waved play on as Kim was right next to Yeom when the ball was struck (although it could have been given as Kim had stretched his arm out). It was a nightmare for Suwon’s Cho Ji-Hoon who started the match on the bench, was subbed on in the 61′, and then proceeded to get booked in the 62′ and 63′ and get sent off. Minutes later Pohang leveled the score. From a free kick Kim Tae-Su knocked the ball back across goal and Moon Chang-Jin headed home. Pohang continued to press for the winner, and it finally came in stoppage time. Lee Myeong-Joo lofted the ball into the area, and Ryu Chang-Hyun beat Jung Sung-Ryong to the ball and beautifully lofted it over him for the winner.
Gyeongnam 2 Jeonnam 3
It was a good game in Changwon with Jeonnam coming out on top in a five-goal thriller. Lee Chang-Min gave the home team the lead in the 30′ after a nice run from midfield. Jeonnam soon found the equalizer through Ahn Yong-Woo, a nice head fake created the space, and he curled it home with his left foot. Things got worse for Gyeongnam as Stevica Ristic headed from from a corner just before half time. However, Milo Stojanovic tied things up just after the restart renewing hope for Gyeongnam. But once again that hope faded quickly as Jeonnam went ahead again just five minutes later. Lee Jong-Ho smashed one home from an acute angle.
Jeju United 1 Seongnam FC 0
It was match that lacked a bit of quality, to put it nicely. Jeju and Seongnam met in Seogwipo, with the home side emerging with the three points. Clear cut chances were few and far between, but both had some half chances and near misses. The only goal of the match finally came in the 72′ when Song Jin-Hyeon belted it home from just outside of the box.
Sangju 0 Jeonbuk 0
It what should have been the most lopsided game of the week, a plucky Sangju Sangmu team held Jeonbuk Motors to a scoreless draw. It was largely one-way traffic as wave after wave of green attacks came, with right midfielder Han Kyo-Won being particularly tricky due to his pace. Sangju came out stronger in the second half, and Jeonbuk keeper Kwon Soon-Tae needed to be quick off his line to take the ball off the toe of the onrushing Ha Tae-Goon. The best chance in the game thus far came to Sangju, when Baek Jong-Hwan made a good cross, which found an unmarked Lee Sang-Ho (I think) at the back post. But once again Kwon Tae-Goon made a brilliant stop with the foot to keep the ball out. Kwon was once again called into action in the 85′ when Ha Tae-Goon faked out Andy Wilkinson and shot from close range. One final chance came to Jeonbuk, when Leonardo got to the ball before the onrushing keeper Kim Keun-Bae. Leonardo crossed to Lee Seung-Ryeol who attempted a difficult overhead kick just a few meters in front of the empty net, but his shot went over.
Seoul 0 Busan 1
It was controversial (for me) and dramatic stuff in Seoul. Seoul came in to the match looking for their first win and first goal in the league. Busan came in looking to beat Seoul in Seoul for the first time since 2002. Both teams pushed for the opening goal, but it was Busan who took the lead. Nilson Junior robbed Kang Seung-Jo of the ball in the Seoul half, and then Hong Dong-Hyun passed it to Yang Dong-Hyun. Yang managed to turn Kim Jin-Kyu and fire it past Kim Yong-Dae. It looked like Seoul would get their equalizer as Kim Chan-Young was adjudged to have stepped on/kicked Go Yo-Han in the box. Replays suggest contact was minimal, but Go went down well, and the ref duly pointed to the spot. Osmar stepped up to take it and his shot was poor. Lee Bum-Young got down well to save it. Both teams had some chances to score, but the next dramatic moment came when the referee once again pointed to the spot in the 78′. This time adjudging that Lee Won-Young had pulled substitute Park Hee-Sung’s arm. Replays again suggest that there was little in it, but Lee did grab Park’s arm (although the latter went down quite dramatically). This time Kim Jin-Kyu stepped forward, but he too was denied by Lee Bum-Young. Busan managed to hang on with 10 men to deny Seoul for a famous win.
Ulsan 3 Incheon 0
A convincing Ulsan win took them to the top of the table. Kim Shin-Wook opened the scoring early with a headed goal in the 5′. Another keeper collision in this game saw Incheon’s Lee Hyo-Goon hit Ulsan’s Kim Seung-Gyu. The young shot stopper needed a minute, but was okay to continue. Ulsan soon hit their second goal, with Han Sang-Woon hitting an unstoppable drive from an acute angle. It got worse for Incheon in the 21′ as Choi Jong-Hwan was shown a straight red card for bringing down Rafinha just outside the area. A bit harsh perhaps, but the ref seems to have thought that the forward was clean through and applied the ‘last man rule’. Lee Seok-Hyun could have halved the deficit, but his free header went harmlessly over the goal. Kim Shin-Wook should have doubled his tally on the stroke of halftime, but he was unable to beat the keeper one-on-one. Rafinha wrapped things up in the 58′ as he stroked home Ulsan’s third.
K League Classic Table – After 3 Rounds
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K League Challenge Table – After 1 Round
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The season is off to a good start, and there have been a few surprises for good and bad. Ulsan and Jeonbuk still seem the clear favorites to win the title. Pohang’s slow start is slightly surprising, as is Seoul’s (although less so given last season). Sangju’s resiliency has been surprising (three draws against decent teams) and Jeonnam has been better than advertised. I imagine though that things will even out as time and the season goes on.
Standout players are few in the league this year, but a few have caught the eye early on. The difference between Kim Shin-Wook with Ulsan and the national team are, if you pardon the pun, striking, and I wonder if it’s just that the national team players quite simply don’t know how/aren’t used to playing a with such a big target man. I have yet to be impressed with Kim in the red of Korea, but probably think that for the medium term (2-4 years) he is our best striking option (depending on what happens with Park Chu-Young this summer). It will require though, the coach and his teammates really taking the time to adjust and gel together.
Another interesting player is Jeonbuk’s Han Kyo-Won. A speedy winger, Han could be a valuable back-up option on the right should it be needed for Lee Chung-Yong. Han will need more time to develop as he’s still a bit young and raw, and has yet to be capped at any level for the national team.
One of Jinseok’s favorites, Moon Chang-Jin at Pohang, has also been impressive lately. He was denied his first goal of the season against Busan and Shandong, but got on the board against Suwon. Moon seems to have a very nice left foot, and offers a nice attacking option. Only 20, Moon could be one for the future.
Got to give the hometown team a shout, two of Busan’s players have been good lately and they are Nilson Junior and Lee Bum-Young. Nilson Junior isn’t Korean (duh), but he’s been a rock in the midfield and has done a very good job since Yoon Sung-Hyo went to a midfield three (allowing Nilson to focus on breaking up attacks). Lee Bum-Young has also been solid since the three goal let-in versus Jeonbuk. He made a couple good saves against Pohang, but showed nerves of steel in denying Seoul twice from the spot.
Speaking of goalkeeping, I said the K League would determine who, between Jung Sung-Ryong and Kim Seung-Gyu would land between the sticks in Brazil. As of now it’s definitely the Ulsan stopper with the edge. Kim Seung-Gyu has kept three clean sheets out of three thus far, while Jung Sung-Ryong has conceded four times, and has just one clean sheet. Jung’s experience will keep him close, and at most the number 2, but I think in the end Hong won’t have a choice and will go with the more talented Kim.
There’s more domestic action midweek, as the league has to juggle their schedule a bit to accommodate the World Cup break that will come from mid-May to early-July. Also, the Korean FA Cup kicked off this past weekend as well, with semi-pro sides and university sides taking each other on. Results for that round can be found on the KFA website and Facebook page.