By now you’ve undoubtedly know Son Heung-Min beasted it up in the Bundesliga on Saturday, his double helping seal a 3-0 Bayer Leverkusen victory over Nurnberg. Take a look: Looking over a summary of his touches, he could have had a hat trick easily -but apart from that, when Sonny scores, those goals are simply magnificent. Overall, the passing, the movement on the ball, his ability to get out of jams and keep possession – color me impressed. We go from Germany to Korea this morning as dust is settling following a chaotic goalmouth scramble in front of a sizable crowd at Ulsan Munsu Football stadium -the last seconds of stoppage time drawing close the end of a season and a highly anticipated title showdown between Ulsan and Pohang. With the game scoreless, the clock was ticking ever closer to Ulsan absorbing the K-League Classic title by sheer points. But the plot-line would swing dramatically in a matter of seconds. Pohang’s away supporters were the closest to the action, watch as pandemonium ensue:
Kim Won-Il’s goal in the 5th minute of stoppage time (who to give the assist to?) literally snatched the title away from Ulsan and gave (what we think but not 100% sure) the Steelers it’s first double – having nabbed the Korean FA Cup already. In fact, this may be the first time in K-League history a club clinching both title and cup (the Tavern statistician may be able to redeem himself and get back into my good graces if he gets this one right). Here’s how the first half of the table concludes:
|1||Pohang Steelers||38||21||11||6||63||38||+25||74||W W W W W|
|2||Ulsan||38||22||7||9||63||37||+26||73||L L W W W|
|3||Jeonbuk Motors||38||18||9||11||61||49||+12||63||D L W L L|
|4||Seoul||38||17||11||10||59||46||+13||62||D L W W D|
|5||Suwon Bluewings||38||15||8||15||50||43||+7||53||L W L L L|
|6||Busan I’Park||38||14||10||14||43||41||+2||52||W L W W L|
Pohang, Ulsan, Jeonbuk and FC Seoul, are your Asian Champions League contenders next season.
Three observations about the end: Pohang’s away support had that great view of the last gasp goal winner but what was up with throwing all those plastic bottles on the pitch? Who celebrates like that? While congratulations are in order to Pohang for earning the double, a rare double shame has now been issued by Tavern officials directed to Pohang’s support: not only for trashing Ulsan’s field, but also for not using reusable water containers. Here’s the Tavern’s environmental coordinator: “Disposable plastic water bottles are wasteful. Among the many reasons why they are environmentally unsound, it takes a 1000 years for plastic to biodegrade. If incinerated, they produce toxic fumes…for more on that go to thewaterproject.org” Ok Tavern environmental coordinator, that’s enough shaming. Back to football…
2nd observation: while I’m not a proponent of seeing people cry, it’s great to see Koreans passionate about club football, especially for their own domestic K-League. Encouraging to see such emotions on display for Korean chu-gu.
Last observation: FC Seoul clinched the title several weeks before the close of the 2012-2013 season- but on this was a crazy finish down to the wire. And what an amazing fixture – whoever thought of this before the season started had no idea those two would be able to fight for the title out in that exact match up.
Running out of time, but the other important and exciting race is the one to avoid relegation. We don’t want to give short thrift to that, but the Tavern will cover that very soon. Still you can mark your calendars, the 1st leg in the relegation/promotion match is set for December 4th, 5 am EST, while the 2nd leg is December 7th at midnite EST. For more, stay tuned…
Back to Europe:[table “” not found /]
Tavern notes from this weekend in Europe:
- Kim Bo-Kyung, hero of the previous tie with Manchester United, started brightly against Arsenal. ESPN FC had this to say on one attack sequence in the first half: “…Kim flicked on a ball into the Arsenal box and Campbell rose to direct a powerful header goalwards, only for Szczesny to make an excellent low save. The chance prompted a big improvement in Cardiff’s play, the hosts upping the tempo and finding a way to disrupt Arsenal’s passing patterns.” However, it was Arsenal and hometown boy Aaron Ramsey that stole the show, Ramsey getting 2 goals and some mutual admiration from supporters on both sides. Kim played out wide -less centrally. Seeing as the Bluebirds were shut out, Cardiff and Malky Mackay may continue to explore how to best utilize Kimbo; would he be more effective in the center or out wide left?
- Ki Sung-Yeung’s Sunderland side should’ve snagged all 3 points on Saturday against Aston Villa. Ki was a dangerous Blackcat that gave Aston Villa trouble that afternoon. However, his cross across the goalmouth in the first half didn’t connect with about 3 Sunderland players who were in the area. Before the half, Ki sent a ball into the area that Giacherrini should have finished – it sailed over the crossbars instead. Nevertheless, an away point was earned. Ki earned plaudits from several football talking heads for his calm cool and accurate distribution.
- Gus Poyet did talk about Ji Dong-Won before the match – he’s apparently still trying to figure out how to utilize him for the first squad. Meanwhile, increased word on the street is pointing to a possible January transfer back to Germany.
- Despite the loss to Borussia Dortmund, Mainz reportedly played well against the European runner-ups. Park Joo-ho started as a left back – and according to several sources, including Tavern writer Jae Chee, performed well.
- Post match, Son was interviewed in the official Bundesliga website, he was asked several questions including this one regarding the heart shape “gang sign” he made following his 2nd goal: Question: After your goal you have formed with your fingers as a heart. Who was the greeting? Son: My mother and my aunt Kil Song Mi, which was for the first time in a Bundesliga home game. She has for the first time seen a game from me. That’s why I wanted to surprise her and make her a gift. [thanks to Skimmilk for the translation – grabbed it right off the BSK forum]. He went on to say the team has shaken off the woes from the last Champions League beatdown from Manchester United to focus on the upcoming matches. A win in this fashion seems like the perfect tonic.
I promise we will get to the weekend roundup very soon but I’ve got 2 impatient kids looking for attention. I will come back to update as soon as humanly possible (spoiler alert: Park Joo-Ho had a decent outing for Mainz this weekend). Stay tuned… Meanwhile Skimmilk has already looked ahead to midweek games and has brief player notes from Koreans in Europe from this weekend, take a look at his blog here.
We’re going to abruptly end in a moment. Son scoring a brace and an exciting title game in the K-League is the glass half full. The other half -well take a look at the still meager overall attendance rates for Korean domestic football. That part of cultivating the K-League is still a long work in progress: Top 8 K-League Classic Club Attendance rates
|Suwon Bluewings||Suwon World Cup Stadium||15.733||4.861||36.476||45.192||35 %|
|Seoul||Seoul World Cup Stadium||14.154||5.434||25.761||68.476||21 %|
|Ulsan||Munsu Cup Stadium||9.054||5.788||12.155||44.466||20 %|
|Jeonbuk Motors||Jeonju World Cup Stadium||8.613||5.138||11.249||43.348||20 %|
|Pohang Steelers||Steelyard Stadium||6.783||2.274||12.146||25.000||27 %|
|Incheon United||Sungui Arena Park||5.949||1.902||15.595||20.891||28 %|
|Ulsan||Ulsan Sports Complex …||5.123||5.123||5.123||19.665||26 %|
|Busan I’Park||Busan Sport Complex A…||2.152||1.027||3.147||53.864||4 %|