A long overdue domestic roundup : first, we’ll recap this week’s Asian Champions League semi-final second leg between Jeonbuk Hyundai and FC Seoul, are tight races n to the K League, where there are tight races in every corner of the table across both divisions.
Jeonbuk lose, but win
Jeonbuk Hyundai 1:2 FC Seoul (5-3 on agg)
It was far from being Jeonbuk’s finest night as FC Seoul were aggressive from kickoff with a 4-3-3 formation. Adriano and Park Chuyoung started on the wings while Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic was the center forward.
— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) October 19, 2016
Presumably, this formation was another Seoul effort to stretch out the Jeonbuk press with diagonal balls and limit the swarm of Jeonbuk midfielders that close down the ball carriers and any immediate options. Furthermore, given that Jeonbuk were defending a lead, Choi Kanghee’s side took a defensive approach to the game, looking only to counter. Hence, Jeonbuk’s wide players (Lopes and Leo), who are less competent defenders, were pretty much rekt by Seoul’s attack-minded fullbacks, while the considerably week Jeonbuk defense had their hands full with the so called “A-De-Park” trifecta.
As such, the game was defined by poor defending from Jeonbuk and a couple opportunities were handed on a silver platter to the hosts. The 38th minute saw Seoul getting that glimmer of hope, as on-fire Joo Sejong played through fullback Kim Chiwoo, who was making an overlapping run.. a cross into the feet of Adriano and it was 1-0. In the 52nd minute, Seoul’s Joo Sejong was in on goal from midfield when Park Wonjae missed a fairly simple header, and Joo laid it off to Park Chuyoung, but the shot was blocked *just* wide.
And it was a fairly game-changing miss. Seoul’s centreback Kim Namchun failed to clear his lines, hindered by Kim Shinwook, which allowed Lopes to curl with speed into the box off of Kim Chiwoo’s shoulder – a low shot slipping through the grasp of Yoo Hyun and Jeonbuk were level. The away goal meant Seoul needed three to send the two into extra time, and though Ko Kwangmin scored in injury time, it was all consolation.
With that, Jeonbuk advance to the 2016 Asian Champions League final, where they will face off against the UAE’s Al-Ain. The last Korean team in an ACL final was FC Seoul in 2013, when they fell on away goals to Guangzhou Evergrande. Ulsan Hyundai won the title in 2012 against Al-Ahli of Saudi Arabia, and Jeonbuk fell in 2011 to Qatari side Al-Sadd on penalty kicks. Their last win was in 2006 against Iraqi side Al-Qaramah.
The first leg of this final will be held on November 19th in Jeonju — the return leg the next Saturday inthe UAE.
K League Classic — Round 35/38
Ulsan Hyundai 0:0 Jeonbuk Hyundai
Suwon Bluewings 2:0 Seongnam FC
FC Seoul 2:2 Sangju Sangmu
Jeju United 5:3 Jeonnam Dragons
Pohang Steelers 0:1 Suwon City
Incheon United 2:0 Gwangju FC
Title favorites remain deadlocked
Both Jeonbuk and Seoul drew their second game of the post-split phase, but it will be Seoul who will rue their result more than Jeonbuk. The capital club welcomed the military to town and lined up in an identical, aggressive 4-3-3. Adriano had a brace (his 15th and 16th goals of the season) and gave an undisciplined Sangju defense nightmares, but Seoul leaked goals too, with Kwak Taehwi conceding a penalty and Lee Kyuro’s corner kick clearance gaffe leading to two Sangju goals against the run of play.
Jeonbuk’s draw, meanwhile, was far less surprising. Ulsan away is far from an easy fixture, with the Tigers’ defense renowned for blunting opposition’s jabs. But Jeonbuk seem to be somehow purposefully making things harder for themselves. None of Lopes, Leonardo, Lee Jaesung or Kim Bokyung started the game – instead Ko Mooyul, Lee Seunggi and Han Kyowon with Edu up top. Why play a B side? Fatigue is the only logical answer. Still, they never really got a foothold in the encounter and capitulated in terms of possession to Ulsan.
The run in for both teams is as follows:
FC Seoul — @ Jeju, vs Jeonnam, @ Jeonbuk
Jeonbuk — @ Jeonnam, vs Sangju, vs Seoul
It’s an easier run-in for Jeonbuk, as Seoul will have to deal with high-scoring Jeju next weekend down in on the Island. But with both teams tied in the points (61) and tied in the first tiebreaker (most goals scored) we could be heading for a dramatic last-round finish in Jeonju for one final clash between two dominant sides.
With Jeju defeating Jeonnam in a battle of the 3-5-2 formations (a 5-3 goalfest!), the top half of the table is as follows:
Jeju has a mathematical shot at the title, but it will still come down to Jeonbuk and Seoul. The Islanders have a fairly firm grasp on the third ACL spot, while the FA Cup could still be won by Seoul, making fourth place eligible for ACL as well. Can Jeonnam trudge through against Seoul and Jeonbuk to grab that 4th spot from Ulsan?
At the bottom: everyone who needs to win, wins
Nothing changed when it came to the ranking of the bottom three sides. At the Big Bird, Johnathan and Kwon Changhoon found the scoresheet against a Seongnam side without much to play for. KNT fans will be happy to see the ebullient, dynamic Kwon return to his old self. Creating chances, covering a lot of ground, with a clutch eye for goal. He’s still got much to play for, looking to convince Stielike that he’s done his time in national team purgatory and return in November.
Meanwhile, basement dwellers Suwon FC stayed with the pace thanks to an 85th minute penalty from Bruce D’jite. It was a fairly poor game in truth, one that probably deserved a 0-0 draw. D’jite drew the (soft) penalty and converted down the middle. Over in Incheon, the hosts scored through Kim Yonghwan and Jin Sungwook – all thanks to a longball and a set piece. Young Vietnamese midfielder Luong Xuan Truong played his first game in 155 days, and had a largely quiet performance, being taken off at 66 minutes.
The strength of the bottom three sides this round has really complicated things at the bottom. Seongnam and Pohang will be sweating a little, especially if Incheon can bag a couple more wins in their remaining games and drag them down into relegation playoff spot (11th). On the other hand, both Suwon clubs will be hoping Incheon drops a game or two. It’s all in their hands, as each of the bottom three clubs play each other in their remaining games.
The sprint home:
Bluewings: @Suwon FC, vs Incheon, vs Gwangju
Incheon: vs Pohang, @Bluewings, vs Suwon FC
Suwon FC: vs Bluewings, @Seongnam, @Incheon
K League Challenge Update – Round 43/44
Goyang 0:2 Seoul E-Land
Ansan Police 0:4 Gangwon FC
Busan 2:1 Bucheon
Gyeongnam 1:2 Daegu
Daejeon 2:2 Chungju
Literally anything can happen
Ansan’s second huge loss in three games (8-1 to Gyeongnam last weekend, though they won midweek), means the K League Challenge title is up for grabs, with Daegu lurking. That said, the real prize is promotion, and since the Police can’t be promoted this season, Daegu’s hard-fought away victory puts them in prime position for a K League Classic spot next season. If Gangwon can’t beat out Daegu for the promotion ticket, they will enter the playoffs with Busan (thanks to a late season resurgence) and likely Bucheon (who are fading). This is because Bucheon’s final game of the season is against league point-bank Goyang, and Seoul E-Land would need Bucheon to lose.
It’s getting a little complicated, so let’s explain it this way…
The final games:
Anyang v Ansan Police (for pride!)
Bucheon v Goyang (can Bucheon take final playoff spot?)
Seoul E-Land v Busan (Seoul technically can still make playoffs, Busan technically can still win title)
Daegu v Daejeon (a point and Daegu are going up!)
Gangwon v Gyeongnam (Gangwon could finish 1st, could finish 5th! winning would help)
Still here? KFA Cup!
As if that wasn’t enough football, we got some Korean FA Cup action on Wednesday. And it’s coming to an end, we’re in the semi-final stage. Ulsan host Suwon Bluewings — an opportunity for Seo Jungwon’s XI to salvage their season with some silverware? In the other game, FC Seoul host Bucheon FC — the defending champs could still be in for a domestic double this season, but 2nd division underdogs Bucheon are not to be underestimated, having knocked out Jeonbuk Hyundai in the quarters. Those games go at 6:30am EST/7:30pm KST on Wednesday.
Thanks for reading this K League Update and jalgayo!