After three months of waiting, the Asian Champions League returns at last, and we are now into the Quarter-Final stages of the competition. There are two Korean teams still carrying the K League’s flag in the final 8. Earlier today, Jeonbuk Hyundai was in Shanghai to take on Sven Goran Eriksson’s Shanghai SIPG – find out the result of that match, as well as a preview of home leg of the FC Seoul quarter-final tie against Shandong Luneng.
Shanghai SIPG 0-0 Jeonbuk Hyundai
An intimidating crowd in Shanghai witnessed a hard fought encounter between Shanghai & Jeonbuk. A key focal point of this game was actually the players not on the pitch – the absence of notable Shanghai stars, including Hulk and Dario Conca, made this perhaps the perfect time for Jeonbuk to play this match.
Jeonbuk 11 vs Shanghai SIPG. Formation based on previous games. Preview: https://t.co/lThLWvjtFb #acl2016 #SHAvJEO pic.twitter.com/2OEK40aIAS
— Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns) August 23, 2016
Jeonbuk lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation, while Shanghai played 4-2-3-1, but that obviously doesn’t tell the whole story. The key battle from a Jeonbuk defensive standpoint was definitely Park Wonjae vs. Wu Lei. The Chinese team national was singled out by Choi as being “more dangerous than even the foreign players on the team”, and he was going up against the veteran leftback.
An interesting strategy by Jeonbuk to try and contain Shanghai’s danger and Wu Lei’s mastery was to shrink the size of the pitch in midfield battles – the hallmark Choi-esque “gegenpressing”, if you will. As such it was a game of fine margins, quick touches, and physicality, with Shanghai trying to prevent Jeonbuk’s persistent passing play, and the visitors trying to force them to make mistakes and turnover the ball.
Leonardo and Lopes, the two Jeonbuk wingers, predictably had excellent games. Leo was responsible for Jeonbuk’s two major first half chances – a low, slightly deflected shot in the 9th minute that was easily saved, and one screamer of an effort from about 35 yards in the 38th minute. Lee Jaesung, Lopes and Leo were in what seemed to be a logjam (organized chaos, by Choi’s definition?) before the Brazilian just decided to go for it from distance – his curling shot hitting the corner of the goalframe and going out for a goal kick.
The goalkeepers had their moments of glory in the second half, and first up was KNT netminder Kwoun Suntae. Lu Wenjun’s free kick in the 55th minute, from a very good position, curled over the wall and was heading for the bottom left corner – but Kwoun stuck out a hand and made the save. Over in the 60th minute, Jeonbuk countered quickly and rightback Choi Chulsoon moved inside, took one touch and fired from twenty yards – in vain, as Yan Junling was there to prevent what would have been a screamer of a goal.
As Choi Kanghee made attacking substitutions – bringing on Kim Shinwook for defensive midfielder Lee Ho, as well as taking off a shine-less Lee Donggook for Brazilian Edu, Shanghai would have had every reason to see their backs up against the wall. They still managed, however, to find room for an excellent passing play in the 68th minute:
That was some really nice ball movement from SIPG. #ACL2016 pic.twitter.com/xxbjZknxRE
— Yixin Li (@FRsoccerYixin) August 23, 2016
Luckily, the slip and slide approach of the Jeonbuk centrebacks was enough to deny Wu from opening the scoring.
Unfortunately, Jeonbuk’s offensive substitutions couldn’t find the back of the net and no other real clear-cut chances were created – it’s to be expected in what was a battle of two worthy opponents playing to a hard fought, and hardly dull, 0-0 draw. Despite Choi’s men having a chance to win this game, they should be the happier of the two sides with the away spoils shared – the return leg in Jeonju next week will hardly be a coronation for Jeonbuk, however, despite their nearly flawless home form: it seems that Asian record signing and “I average 0.5 goals a game” Hulk will be among Shanghai’s troops. Wu Lei might suddenly be the least of Choi Kanghee’s problems.
FC Seoul hosts Shandong Luneng… again!
Tale of the Tapes
Familiar foes but in completely different incarnations of themselves will battle it out at Seoul Sangam World Cup Stadium tomorrow, 6:30am EST/7:30pm KST — set your alarms if you’re out in the East Coast!
Seoul and Shandong clashed swords on two occasions in the group stage earlier this year, with the tie in Jinan a 4-1 victory for Korea’s capital club, and the return game in April a 0-0 draw. However, much has changed since those two spring fixtures, as summer brought new managers and new players for Seoul and Shandong alike.
On June 5th, 2016, former Bayern Munich boss and Kim Hakbum’s idol* Felix Magath took over Shandong Luneng. The famous hardline, disciplinarian boss was able to recruit big name players to the dwindling club (who sit three points above relegation at the present time), including Newcastle star Papiss Cissé and the world’s fifth-highest paid footballer, Italian centre forward Graziano Pellè.
Over in Korea, the signings and managerial changes were less high-profile, though not insignificant by any means. Choi Yongsoo finally took the bait after being tempted by cash on previous occasions by Chinese clubs, and now is Jiangsu Suning’s gaffer. On the way in, however, was another high-profile manager, former Pohang boss Hwang Sunhong.
For both sides, immediate reaction to new managership isn’t always a pretty sight – Magath’s troops (quite literally) managed just 1 point in the German’s first four matches in charge ; over at FC Seoul, their pursuit of two-time defending champions Jeonbuk Hyundai came to a screeching halt (or rather, a slow, lifeless sputter) as the capital club dropped points in a time where only perfection would be enough to keep up with the Hyundai Motors.
However, in the long haul, both team’s situations have drastically improved – Shandong slaughtered Tianjin 4-1 on the weekend, with Pelle netting a brace ; while FC Seoul are undefeated in 5 games! (Still 10 whole points behind Jeonbuk, though).
*If you get this, you’re a true K League fan
“Shandong? We won’t concede against them.” FC Seoul’s summer marquee signing, internationally-capped centreback Kwak Taehwi was confident about their chances at keeping the Chinese club quiet. You can expect the key battle of this leg, and possibly even the next one also, to pit the Italian centre forward Pelle against the Korean centre back – an aerial battle to behold.
Indeed, Hwang’s men have finally settled in to the 4-4-2 system (after playing 5 at the back under Choi) and are firing on all cylinders again. Dejan Damjanovic has laced up his scoring boots and solidifying his reputation of “club legend” with every goal – in fact, 6 in his last 5 matches! The loved and hated Park Chuyoung has returned from the dead, with 3 goals in Seoul’s latest hot streak. And speedy winger Yun Illok, often ignored under Choi Yongsoo, has paid back the confidence Hwang has shown in him with 3 goals as well, including the winner in the latest “Super Match” derby.
So even if Adriano’s 6 game suspension took the wind out of his goalscoring sails, he’s got plenty of teammates carrying the load until he rediscovers the same form that sees him remain top scorer of this Asian Champions League competition.
A Couple Notes…
- Papiss Cisse wasn’t registered in time for the Asian Champions League, so will not feature for Shandong
- Absurdly, Jucilei da Silva, a Brazilian born defensive midfielder, acquired Palestinian citizenship (which, contrary to what Google Maps tells us, is a place) and as such does not count against the “foreign player quota” but rather the “Asian player quota”. Which means Shandong can get another legitimate foreign player and use an Asian player spot on a player who doesn’t even represent an Asian country (he cannot represent Palestine internationally!)
Kwak Taehwi is a brave man for saying that Seoul won’t concede to Shandong. I also think it’s just tough talk. Also, with the two 0-0 draws today in the Asian Champions League, we’re due for some goals. There’s just too much attacking talent in this one. So:
FC Seoul 3 : 2 Shandong Luneng
West Asia happenings
The two quarter-finals that the Korean sides are involved in are the two “East Asia” quarter-finals. Over on the West Asia side of the bracket, Lee Myeongjoo’s Al-Ain welcomed Uzbeki side Lokomotiv Tashkent today, and that finished in a 0-0 draw. If you haven’t already, you should read John Duerden’s piece on how the former Pohang playmaker is doing, and why Lee may be due for a KNT re-call (he was omitted again for this batch of World Cup Qualifiers).
And tomorrow, we have Qatari side El-Jaish facing the UAE’s Al-Nasr in West Asia. No Koreans involved in that one.
- Rumours circulating on social media that Leicester and Tottenham are interested in Jeonbuk playmaker and national team midfielder Lee Jaesung… Source barely seems credible, though.
- More reliable sources indicating that Wolfsburg and considering making an aggressive push for Son Heungmin if they manage to sell Bas Dost. Is this how Son’s EPL dream ends?
- Korea’s World Cup Qualifier against Syria was already scheduled to be played at the neutral venue due to security concerns — well, it’s happened again, as the neutral venue has changed somewhat last minute… The fixture will now be played in Macau (where there will be a bit more Koreans than over in Lebanon…)
- Stielike’s official reason for only calling up 21 players is that he doesn’t like not playing players but making them come to international duty… Other notes from his press conference include a bemoaning of the quality of fullbacks in the K League and at the Olympic Tournament for Korea, though he’s got his eye on Incheon leftback Kim Yonghwan.
The Tavern will have coverage and recap of the FC Seoul – Shandong Luneng 2016 Asian Champions League Quarter-Final… Stay tuned here at the Tavern!
Extratime: I’ve just noticed my computer’s been infected with this stupid virus that turns random words into links for advertisement… including when I’m working on posts… If in the past you’ve clicked on a link like that, it’s not harmful, just annoying, I’m sorry… rest assured, this post is *entirely* random advertisement-proof. The Tavern remains a no-advertisement zone 🙂
Join in the Tavern's conversations -Leave a comment...