This season has been a tale of two sets of Koreans in Europe. One set shows promise, of future forward progress. The other – possible decline. The end had been talked about for so long, and now sadly that moment has arrived. QPR struggled all year to pull themselves out of the basement. With today’s scoreless draw, they now become one of the most expensive, debt ladden teams to be relegated from the Premier League. Today’s dismal score with fellow bottom dweller Reading enabled a double elimination at Madejski Stadium (possibly the antithesis of seeing a double rainbow). As with the other games of late, Park Ji-Sung was an unused substitute. Left back Yun Suk-Young, a January transfer from Chunnam Dragons, was not in the 18 man roster. Yun’s CV includes helping the Taeguk Warriors defense and earning a Bronze medal last summer, a ticket for him and his fellow teammates – a new generation of young Koreans who since then have military exemption. Nixing a chance to join Fulham for QPR during the January transfer window, Yun cited Park as one of the major reasons for signing up as a Ranger. He thought having a mentor like Park would help acclimate him to the rigors of the Premiership as well as assistance in understanding the culture in England. As for Park Ji-Sung, there is speculation he may retire, making his one year misadventure away from Manchester United a dismal mark on his otherwise remarkable, decorated and proud football career. To quote Switch (Belinda McClory) in the Matrix, “It can’t end like this…not like this…”
On to less gloomier news, Saturday started the weekend right: Ji Dong-Won continuing to impress in his loan stint with Augsburg by scoring his 4th goal of the season since joining in January. The Sunderland loanee scored the 3rd goal against Stuttgart, winning 3-0 and pulling themselves even with Fortuna Dusseldorf (they lost 1-2 to Borrusia Dortmund) in their efforts to claw their way out of the relegation zone (Augsburg are a hair behind on goal differentials). It was a marvelous sight to behold – just a finesse touch despite an incredibly difficult dipping cross to put it over Stuggart’s keeper for the score. Take a look:
Andres Hahn picked Stutgart’s Shinji Okazaki’s pockets clean to set up Ji’s eventual goal. Ji had several other opportunities to score earlier in the game, but in the 85th minute he was finally able to finish this one off. Tavern note: see how enthusiastic the packed stadium was for Ji’s goal? Would love to see this kind of energy on a regular basis for K-League matches. Someday…
There’s still Suk Hyun-Jun and Maritimo playing in Portugal on Monday that’s yet to kickoff, but we can relay the rest of the weekend’s action. Let’s start with the ‘Korean Derby’ in Cardiff on Saturday. Bolton, still needing points to stay in the English Championship playoff race, took on Cardiff after they secured both an automatic promotion and the Championship division title outright last week. The question before the match: would Cardiff trot out their B squad? They did not and Bolton and Cardiff grappled with the other, each side managing a 1-1 draw. Both Lee Chung-Young and Kim put in excellent 90 minute shifts, but Kim in particular kept the home side enthralled with his spot on performance. After the match, both Lee and Kim exchanged hugs and met afterwards in the tunnels. Our man in Cardiff got off this great shot from the stands:
Here’s the pair in the tunnels.
Kim joined his team on the field for the official celebration in clinching last week’s Championship title. Next season, Kim will face Ki Sung-Yeung in the Welsh derby. Will Lee Chung-Yong also join in the fun? The draw did manage to leave Bolton in their 6th place perch, the last playoff position – but Nottingham Forest is knocking on the door, even on points but just a notch behind on goal differentials. There is just one more match left for the Wanderers – they will face Blackpool next Saturday.
Going back in time to Friday, Greuther Furth’s Park Jung-Bin played 66 minutes in a 2-3 loss to Hannover. The Furth is marching ever closer to inevitable relegation from the Bundesliga.
Going to Korea for a hot minute: We check in with K-Talk as FC Seoul advances automatically to the Asian Champions League knockout stage with their 2-0 win over Jiangsu earlier this week. Meanwhile, AFC Champions League attendance numbers are up overall – but not in Korea. The attendance at home Asian Champions League fixtures continues to be dismal. Roundup for week 9 should be up on K-Talk shortly.
Celta Vigo reversed course and won away from home, beating Levante 0-1. With the win, they are a whisper out of the relegation zone in Spain. Park Chu-Young didn’t have a hand in the victory as he was not in the 18 man roster due to an injury.
Swansea lost on Sunday to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, losing 2-0. Ki Sung-Yeung put in a 90 minute shift. *Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that Swansea was only a handful of clubs that reported a nifty profit – while the majority of Premier League clubs hemmoraged with substantial debt. It’s puzzling as the Premier League raked in £2.4bn in their analysis of the 2011-2012 season. Here’s an excerpt from the Guardian piece:
The accounts show that Norwich City, Swansea City and Wolverhampton Wanderers were the only clubs without any debt. Roman Abramovich’s club [Chelsea] however was the most indebted with a net debt of £878m.
In terms of value for money, Swansea’s players could be seen as punching above their weight – despite having the lowest wage bill they managed to finish 11th in their first season in the Premier League.
While the article referred only to the 2011-2012 season, the same glowing financial report could be said for the 2012-2013 version of the Swans, with Michu and Ki part of the ‘most bang for the pound’ set of players to transfer in last summer. Could the fact that the Swans have a 20% supporters stake in the board been one of the major factors why they have managed to field an immensely quality team without spending stupid amounts of money? Moving on…
FC Basel lost at home 3-0 to Lucerne. Park Joo-Ho started and put in 46 minutes before getting subbed out. We’re not sure why he left so early – was it an injury or the manager just resting him for the 2nd leg in the Europa League semifinals with Chelsea?
Back to Germany, Son Heung-Min and Hamburg missed out on a chance to keep in the race for a Champions League spot. That was held by Shalke ’04. They lost to that very team 4-1 on Sunday. Despite the loss, they are still within striking distance of a Europa League qualifying spot. For his part, Son registered 2 shots, both missing.