Midweek action in the K League Classic, where there were some big surprises, the possibility of a new pro team in Seoul next year, an update on Park Eun-Sun, and 2nd round KFA Cup action.
K League Classic – Round 7 Results
Sangju Sangmu 2 – 1 FC Seoul
Jeju United 2 – 0 Jeonbuk Motors
Pohang Steelers 3 – 0 Gyeongnam FC
Incheon United 0 – 0 Busan IPark
Ulsan Hyundai 0 – 1 Seongnam FC
Suwon Samsung 1 – 0 Jeonnam Dragons
*Unfortunately, only half of the midweek games were available on TV (Sangju-Seoul, Incheon-Busan, and Suwon-Jeonnam).
Sangju 2 Seoul 1
More misery for Seoul as they fell to Sangju Sangmu. Coach Choi Yong-Soo made a change to his formation, reverting to a more “normal” 4-3-3 from the usual 3-5-2 they’ve been using. New Spanish signing, Osmar, was not available. Despite the change, it was Sangju that had the better of the first half, and striker Ha Tae-Goon gave the team the lead following a nice through ball from Lee Ho. Ha Tae-Goon almost doubled the army’s lead minutes later after a good cross from Lee Keun-Ho, but his unmarked header was too high. Seoul came out better in the second half, and Yoon Il-Rok almost leveled things in the 53′ but his shot hit the upright. Seoul would get their equalizer minutes later from substitute Escudero. A defensive error by Yang Joon-Ah saw Escudero go through from a simple long ball over the top. Things looked worse for Sangju when they had both Yang Joon-Ah and manager Park Hang-Seo sent off. Yang tangled with Kim Hyun-Sung just outside the box, and the referee adjudged that Yang brought down Kim (last man). The decision looked harsh as their was minimal contact. Park Hang-Seo was subsequently sent to the stands for arguing as just before the Yang-Kim incident an earlier incident between Seo Sang-Min and Kang Seung-Jo (that looked foulish) was waved off. Despite being a man up, Seoul conceded again. From a corner, Lee Keun-Ho outleapt the Seoul defense and headed home the winner.
Jeju 2 Jeonbuk 0
Second half goals from Yoon Bitgaram and Kim Hyun gave Jeju the win, and allowed the island side to leapfrog the much fancied boys in green. Just looking at the stats, it looks like it was a fairly even contest. Jeonbuk seems to have struggled to get their shots on target, getting just 1 out of 12 shots on frame.
Pohang 3 Gyeongnam 0
Pohang continued their run up the table with a comfortable 3-0 win over struggling Gyeongnam. Kang Soo-Il gave Pohang a first half lead, and then Kim Seung-Dae scored a brace in the second half to wrap things up. Pohang manager Hwang Sun-Hong will be pleased to see the team keep a clean sheet as their defensive record is quite poor.
Incheon 0 Busan 0
‘Dull’ is probably the best way to describe this game. Both teams showed why they are in the state that they’re in. Incheon at the bottom of the table, and Busan without a win in their past three games. The two teams got off a combined 29 shots, but only six found the target. Not much needs to be said about this one. Ivo had a decent header saved by Lee Bum-Young in the second half. Later, a defensive error by Lee Gyeong-Ryeol almost allowed Stefan Nikolic in, but Lee Bum-Young was quick off his line to smother. Ivo had one last chance, but his long-range snap shot was saved.
Ulsan 0 Seongnam 1
The other big shock of the round saw an unfancied Seongnam side travel down to take on Ulsan. Ulsan had been unstoppable in their earlier home matches, but they ran into a wall in Seongnam. A second half goal from Kim Cheol-Ho was the only goal in the match.
Suwon 1 Jeonnam 0
Suwon continued their climb up the table with a slightly controversial 1-0 win over Jeonnam Dragons. Yeom Ki-Hoon was denied a first half penalty claim in a largely tame first half of play. Both teams had a couple half chances, but all were largely long-range efforts that were easily saved. Suwon would get their penalty in the second half. Lee Hyun-Seung went for the ball, but Jung Tae-Se got to the ball a second quicker. Jung then went down as he went over Lee’s leg. The contact was clear enough, but Jeonnam seems to feel that Jung had knocked the ball too far away (and was going away from goal) and was looking for the contact by jumping into Lee. Regardless of the feelings about the decision to award the penalty, Yeom Ki-Hoon stepped up and converted, getting his shot just past the outstretched fingertips of Kim Byung-Ji.
K League Classic Table – After Round 7
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K League Musings
It’s only been seven rounds (about 1/5 through the season), but there are some strange things going on in the domestic top flight. The bottom two teams are currently Incheon United (4 points) and FC Seoul (5 points). As things stand Incheon would be relegated and Seoul would enter the playoffs. Incheon was figured to struggle a bit after losing many top players again during the offseason, but I don’t think many saw them struggling as much as they are. Yesterday’s 0-0 draw with Busan marked the team’s sixth straight match without scoring. The team has just two goals to their name after seven matches, with both coming in their opening 2-2 draw with Sangju.
Seoul’s struggles are more significant given their resources. Yes, the team lost two key players in Dejan Damjanovic and Ha Dae-Sung, and slow starts and a bit of time to re-gel were expected. But worries will surely start creeping into management and players. Seoul started poorly last year, but not like this. The offense is struggling without a striker to lead the attack (their 5 goals is joint 3rd worst in the league), and the defense also looks porous each match.
On the other end of the table, we have a joint three-way tie for first place. Ulsan Hyundai was shocked by Seongnam at home, losing 1-0. The loss leaves Ulsan on 13 points, and marginally top by goal difference. Right behind them is a surging Pohang Steelers team led by Kim Seung-Dae, Lee Myeong-Joo, and Moon Chang-Jin. Coach Hwang Sun-Hong will be thrilled with his team’s offensive output (15 goals), but concerned about their defensive frailties (10 conceded). Right with them on points are Jeju United. The islanders have often been “there” or “thereabouts” in recent years, but I don’t think many saw them challenging for top honors.
The middle remains congested, with 4th – 10th place separated by four points. The two Jeolla clubs are level, along with Suwon, on 11 points. Jeonnam Dragons, after a terrific start, have dropped points in their last three games. Jeonbuk Motors, after looking world beaters in their opener, have struggled to find the net since. Take away their 3-0 win over Busan opening day and the team’s record in the other six games looks decidedly average. 2-2-2 with 4 goals scored and 6 conceded. In contrast, Suwon Samsung started poorly, but have been on the up over the past four weeks or so. It must be said though that rarely have they looked dominating or really even that convincing in any of their wins.
The remaining four teams would be: Busan, Seongnam, Gyeongnam, and Sangju. All of these teams have their flaws, yet all look (at times) capable of beating any team in the league. Busan IPark tops that group with nine points. Busan is a strange team that seems to up their game against big teams, but struggles against similar or weaker teams. Seongnam FC (8 points) has scored a paltry 3 goals thus far, but has only conceded 3 goals. Gyeongnam FC has conceded 12 goals after 7 games, the most of any team in the league. Sangju Sangmu has shown they can score, but like Gyeongnam their defense doesn’t convince.
A New Team Next Year?
Next week, retail company E-Land Group is expected to formally announce their intention to start a new professional football team next season (2015 season). The team would be based in Seoul, and would likely play at the Jamsil Main Stadium. The team would apply to start their existence in the K League Challenge. The move would also likely involve a renovation of the stadium at Jamsil (which is an all-purpose stadium) to make it more ‘football-friendly’. Should the team be formed, and gain promotion, it would mark the second local derby in Korea (Suwon also has two teams).
Park Eun-Sun Roars Back
Another update on the Park Eun-Sun situation. A happier note here for the Seoul City striker. The W-K League is back and Park has got her side up near the top after five matches. Park has scored four goals thus far. National team coach Yoon Deok-Yeo has said that Park is very much in his plans for the upcoming 2014 Asian Cup (starting next month in Vietnam). Yoon revealed that Park is in his 50 member provisional squad, and may be in his final 23 member squad (to be released next week).
KFA Cup Marches On
It’s still in early rounds, but this past week saw round 2 of the Korean FA Cup held across the country. Round 2 saw 40 teams (university, Challengers League, National League, and K League Challenge) face off. K League Classic teams will join in the next round.
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