Sunday: it was a breakout performance for Augsburg’s Ji Dong-Won as he scored the only goals in the match (27th minute & 55th minute); they downed Eintracht Frankfurt 2:0, a vital win for the club in their attempt to drive out of the Bundesliga relegation zone. Koo Ja-Cheol no doubt was going wild with enthusiasm (he’s still injured from the South Korea/Qatar WCQ March 26th), but it was Koo who brought up the idea and pushed Augsburg management to get the under-utilized Ji from Sunderland before the January transfer window. Ji’s loan agreement was amongst the first announced at the start of the transfer period. Koo’s recommendation paid off for Augsburg in spades on Sunday. Here’s Ji’s first goal:
Initially there was speculation that Ji’s shot was deflected and should’ve been an own-goal. The officials actually got it right as the video shows Ji’s shot almost grazing the outstretched defender’s foot -instead it took a wicked hop before landing in the net. 5 minutes after the goal, Augsburg missed their first opportunity to double their lead, with Jan Ingwer Callsen-Bracker sending a penalty kick high over the crossbars and into outer space. Ji lit up Eintracht Frankfurt again in the 55th minute – adding this insurance goal to win Sunday afternoon. Excellent finish. See the video (with Korean commentary):
ESPN FC described the Sunderland loanee this way: “Ji was at the heart of everything, creating and…also finishing their attacks.”
Ji could’ve had his first hat trick under his belt, but his halftime strike was harshly disallowed (referee indicated something about a perceived pernicious high kick). However Eintracht Frankfurt, despite a late game flurry of action to catch up, never was able to get one past Augsburg’s keep.
The victory helped Son Heung-Min’s Hamburg remain only a point away from the last Europa League qualifying spot -which Eintracht Frankfurt holds precariously at 42 points. Son scored a brace for Hamburg on Saturday, enough to bring down Mainz by a score of 1-2. Also on Sunday, Borussia M’gladbach lost to Stuttgart, further aiding Hamburg’s quest at the moment.
The win of course helped out tremendously in Augsburg’s efforts to get out of relegation. With 3 points sealed today, they move to within striking distance of safety, a mere 3 points separating themselves and the 15th position, currently held by Fortuna Dusseldorf. If the season were to end today, Augsburg would not be automatically relegated, but would have to play a one game playoff with the 3rd place 2.bundesliga team. Here’s the bottom 6 of the table.
|18||SpVgg Greuther Furth||29||2||9||18||19||52||0||4||11||7||31||2||5||7||12||21||-33||15|
Earlier FC Basel cruised to a 3-1 victory over Zurich. Park Joo-Ho not in the 18 man roster (possible hamstring injury in their PK win over Spurs midweek to advance to the Europa League semifinals. They face Chelsea on April 25). FC Basel had just recently regained 1st place in the Super Swiss League, an automatic berth into next season’s Champions League.
MONDAY tune into Celta Vigo’s clash with Mallorca (3pm EST/ 4am Korea time). BeInSports is broadcasting that in the US, Park Chu-Young may get another chance for his club in their fight to stave off relegation in La Liga.
Final note: as we anxiously await Celta and Park Chu-young’s fate tomorrow, we can’t help but note what a productive weekend it has been for Koreans plying the trade in Europe. Lee Chung-Yong and Kim Bo-Kyung made huge impact for their respective English Championship sides on Saturday (with Kim Bo-Kyung & Cardiff a game away from automatic promotion and Lee’s Bolton side managing to reach a playoff qualifying spot for the first time this season). It’s quite possible, both Ki Sung-Yeung and Suk Hyun-Jun might have also created some headline performances had their sides, Swansea and Maritimo respectively, not been off this week. If you count Thursday as the beginning of the unofficial weekend, Park Joo-Ho got things off to a rousing start -his 120 minute performance helped his Swiss based FC Basel team deliver a shock upset of Tottenham in the Europa League quarterfinals. The Korean left back got to flex some offensive muscle with an opportunity to play an advance wing position late in the game after going a man up. That both Son Heung-Min and Ji Dong-Won scored braces for their respective sides in the Bundesliga this weekend is a fact that some in the western media might neglect to cover, but isn’t lost on long time observers/supporters of the Taeguk Warriors. That there are now a fair number more Korean names in the last few days making some waves in European football other than Park Ji-Sung (during his Manchester United heyday -and who unfortunately enough, appeared on a side headed in a less-than-positive trajectory), it represents something like…I suppose…progress. With dark clouds hovering over the Korean peninsula at the moment, any news like this is sure to cheer up some in the Korean diaspora who may hang out in a perpetual state of bummersville. Let’s break out some soju, just to relish the moment.