With all three games previewed in WtW running at essentially the same time, I was only able to watch parts of the matches. So, here’s just a few thoughts from each one (sorry no details). Also, a preview of the midweek ‘Watching This Weekend’ featuring the opening round of European (Champions League) action. Manchester United vs Bayer Leverkusen.
3. Almeria vs Atletico Madrid (2-4)
Kim Young-Kiu did not make the bench this time round as Almeria fell to a very good looking Atletico side 4-2.
2. Sunderland vs Arsenal (1-3)
Ki started for Sunderland, while Ji didn’t make the 18. Likewise, Park Chu-Young did not make the 18 for Arsenal, with 17 year old Chuba Akpom and 18 year old Serge Gnabry making the bench ahead of him (Akpom even managed to come off the bench in stoppage time). Ki played in center midfield for Sunderland in a 4-4-2. Ki was largely invisible through the part of the match that I saw, with Sunderland struggling to get any sort of foothold in the match. One hopes that Ki will slowly grow more accustomed to his new team as time goes on, and puts in better shows against slightly weaker opposition. If things continue as they are for Ki, it’s hard to see him making a club level push for more playing time with the national team.
1. Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg (3-1)
Both Son Heung-Min and Koo Ja-Cheol started for their respective clubs, but both also got the eventual hook. With Koo going off in the 59th minute and Son in the 80th. Son continues to look a little lost with Leverkusen. Not really a wide player, but not really a central attacking force either. Boenisch continues to dominate the left side of the pitch, forcing Son into more central positions, but with Stephen Kiessling there, it’s hard for him to really make an impact. Son’s best first half moments were on the break, when he had space to burst down the wing. Things would probably be better for him if Kiessling was willing to drift wide and open space for him, but he tends not to . . .
Koo also seems a bit lost with Wolfsburg. Diego has a free roaming role, and seems to drop deep too often (for my liking), taking Koo’s position in the process, and then racing up the pitch to once again, take Koo’s position. When Diego isn’t doing this, Wolfsburg seems content to play more direct from back to front, and thus bypassing Koo entirely. Koo did have one chance to make an impact when Luis Gustavo’s long range effort crashed off the crossbar, but Koo could only make a sliding hook shot that went well wide.
Watching this Weekend Midweek Edition
The big midweek game for Korean fans is Manchester United vs Bayer Leverkusen. Son Heung-Min should get his first taste of the European big time, and a trip to Old Trafford is his reward.
United, despite losing Sir Alex Ferguson, is still tipped to top this group (which also features Real Sociedad and Shakhtar Donetsk), but Leverkusen should be able to give them a good run for their money (as should Sociedad). United, after a piss poor summer (market-wise), has been a bit up and down in the early goings. A draw with Chelsea, and a loss to archrivals Liverpool, coupled with wins over Swansea and Crystal Palace. New manager David Moyes is cautious by nature, which could serve him better in the more tactical, calculated Champions League than the more open Premier League. United’s problem continues to be inconsistency on the wings, a possible soft midfield (although the addition of Fellaini should help), and an injury-prone defense.
Robin Van Persie continues to be the danger man, although Wayne Rooney, after yet another protracted transfer temper tantrum, has also returned to good form. When on-form the partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic is solid, and David De Gea has turned out to be a very good keeper. Patrice Evra remains the left back, but has lost a bit of his burst, and is a liability at times. Right back Rafael has missed the season so far through injury, with Phil Jones and twin brother Fabio taking turns there. Star Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa continues to get the cold shoulder, having yet to appear in a United game this season.
Leverkusen needs little introduction at this point, having been covered several times already in this column. I don’t think Sami Hyypia will change much to the side that beat Wolfsburg (see above) on Saturday. Hyypia, of course will be very familiar with United, having spent 10 years at Liverpool as a player, and I’m sure some of that old rivalry will not be lost on him.
This game being at Old Trafford, I expect Leverkusen to be a bit more of the reactive side. A draw would certainly suffice the Germans, so unless United take an early lead, look for some defensive tactics. Such tactics should suit Son fine, as his pace could cause some real headaches for the United defense. One of Vidic or Ferdinand should be attached to Kiessling, enabling Son and Sam to spring forward from wide positions into space.
It looks to me (people with more knowledge please correct if I’m wrong) that Fox Sports 2 will be showing the United-Leverkusen game. It starts at 8pm EDT. Correction: United-Leverkusen is at 2:30pm EDT on Fox Sports 1. The aforementioned time and channel is a replay. In Korea, it looks like the game will be broadcast on delay on SPOTV+ at 8am (Wednesday).
>>Tavern owner intruding on Jae’s post: Jae beat me to the midweek update (nice job as usual!) , but rather than build a whole new post – I’ll piggy back. Right, so Son’s debut in the Champions League is obviously tops. Korean Footballers Abroad has a few more less visible midweek matches to be aware of:
Lee Chung Yong and Bolton host Derby County at home. Tuesday at 2:45 PM US EST. No TV in the US. May start if he can get rested.
Yun Suk Young and QPR host Brighton. Wednesday at 2:45 PM US EST. No TV in the US and low probability of even making the bench.
Park Ji Sung and PSV start Europa group stage hosting Ludogorets Razgrad. Thursday at 1PM US EST.
No TV in the US ESPN3.com in the US
Before we quickly recap the weekend performances ( a number of players were rested due to international duty), check out the Bundelsliga table:
#3 Bayer Leverkusen, #5 Mainz and #6 FC Augsburg – that 6th spot is the last Europa league qualifying position –not too shabby for a team that was on the edge of relegation. Wolfsburg meanwhile is in a #12th spot – a midtable spot for the moment.
Sunderland MF Ki Sung-Yeung: 90 minutes in 3-1 loss to Arsenal
Sunderland F Ji Dong-Won: not in 18 in 3-1 loss to Arsenal
Cardiff City MF Kim Bo-Kyung: 46 min in a 1-1 draw at Hull
Stuart HoldenLee Chung-Yong: 90 minutes 1-0 loss to Leeds
*Unless Stu is a secret Korean bro posing as a caucasian, he is not a KPA. My mistake! For Stu Holden supporters, he’s still out with another knee injury suffered during Confederations cup tourney last July.
QPR D Yun Suk-Young: not in 18 in 1-0 win against Birmingham City
Mainz D Park Joo-Ho: 90 in 1-0 loss to Schalke
Augsburg D Hong Jeong-Ho: not in the 18 for 2-1 victory over Freiburg
Bayer Leverkusen F Son Heung-Min: 80 minutes in 3-1 victory over Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg MF Koo Ja-Cheol: 59 minutes in 1-3 loss at Bayer Leverkusen*
Obviously, a game on the radar was the Leverkusen/Wolfsburg match. Even Bayer Leverkusen legend Cha Bum-Kun couldn’t resist and came to the match in style – a nice luxury box view of the proceedings, followed by some PR shots of the old Korean guard meeting the new Korean generation representin’. Son might have missed a perfect chance to score his 2nd goal of the season, but he’ll no doubt have plenty of other opportunities to score. Koo looked to have pretty decent movement on the ball according to this video recap (check out the moves at :35 !! ):
Almeria F Kim Young-Kiu: not in 18 in a 2-4 loss at Atletico Madrid
PSV Eindhoven MF Park Ji-Sung: 67 minutes in 2-2 draw with FC Twente
Jeju United 2 : 2 Pohang Steelers (9/14/2013)
Alright Tavern goers, carry on then…