November 5, 2012
A busy weekend of Korean footballers in Europe, so how did they all fare? Teams featuring Korean faced sides that were all on top of their respective leagues: Park Chu-Young at Barcelona, Son Heung-Min at home vs Bayern Munich and Ki Sung-Yeung at home against Chelsea. And we had a Korean derby in the English Championship with Lee Chung-Yong going head to head against Kim Bo-Kyung. Plus, what’s all this, Fortuna Dusseldorf’s experimenting with Cha Du-Ri as forward yet again? It’s Koo Ja-Cheol back for Augsburg and more in the Tavern’s Sunday Kickaround. Let’s get started.
Hannover 96 2 : Augsburg 0
Koo Ja-Cheol officially returned from injury status and entered this match in the 68th minute for Knowledge Musona. Koo was out since September with an ankle tendon injury. Augsburg was down 1-0 when he came on and set up a great chance to score the equalizer in the 75th minute with a cross delivered to Sebastian Langkamp at the center of the box. Sebatian’s header was blocked by netminder Zieler. Koo got another dangerous cross in to his teammates, this time Kevin Vogt receiving in the 84th minute, maneuvering to the right -and from a difficult angle right footed a shot to the bottom left corner. Again with the block: Zieler. A minute later, Hannover on the counter attack, finished it and Augsburg’s chance to equalize. Augsburg now finds themselves dead last in the Bundesliga table. Team Augsburg are back to their mission of digging themselves out of the relegation zone, just in time for Koo to have returned to the team.
Swansea 1 : Chelsea 1
A hella match for those that witnessed it. Chelsea is the big dog this season: newly transformed, European champions, sharply managed by Roberto Di Matteo and at the start of the match they were on top of the Premier League table. Swansea had something to prove however, as they’ve been tinkering with a Spanish style of dominating passing/possession play described by some as ‘Swanselona.’ Experimenting with this in the post-Rogers era has been not without it’s share of problems, but after beating Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday, the Welsh side was looking forward to the tangle with the West Londoners. First half Swansea was dazzling -if by dazzling you mean brilliant passing, penetrating possession, and no goals. Still there was no denying Swansea had swagger, and Liberty stadium was rocking despite it being scoreless by the half. Chelsea couldn’t find an answer, in part due to manager Michael Ladrup’s chess-like tactics with a versatile formation. Boss Ladrup utilized none of his traditional strikers initially. Danny Graham was out. Michu, an attacking midfielder was in. The Swans were at times a virtual 4-6-0 formation, but morphed into a 4-5-1 with Michu switching as the stand in forward. Richard Jolly remarked in ESPN FC, “Laudrup’s redeployment of Michu has allowed him to start with two of his signings, De Guzman and Ki Sung-Yeung, as well as Leon Britton. Each of the trio has completed more than 90% of his passes this season and the South Korean only misplaced one of the 63 he attempted against the European champions.” That one misplaced pass could’ve been disastrous as it occurred in the Swans half of the field, Chelsea strikers hungry for an opportunity to pounce. Fortunately, nothing came of that, and Ki went on to play his usual solid midfield game. Between Ki and Leon Britton, they were the lords of midfield, directing and dictating play, completing pass after pass, and probing for weaknesses in the Chelsea defense. All that Barcelona-esque possession gave the Swans some reassurance that they were making progress against Chelsea. Ki had 2 shots blocked, one by Mikel, who threw his whole body to block Ki’s powerful strike. His real danger to Chelsea came in the form of some magnificent through balls, particularly in the 52nd minute that set loose Michu to go mano a mano with Petr Cech. Michu couldn’t finish it, shot smothered by Cech. Another Swansea development: Ki no longer seems to be taking the set pieces -instead has positioned himself up front near the box, possibly another tactical switch to see if the Swans could utilize his height for headers. While Swansea couldn’t find the back of the net from any corner kicks, Chelsea did after Gary Cahill was able to angle a header towards the net -Victor Moses was unaware of the location of the ball and the lucky bounce redirected it into the goal. And in a scene out of a Dr Suess book, the fans of Whoville, er rather Liberty Stadium, grew even more boisterous, undaunted by the Chelsea goal. The Welsh sure do love to sing, and with the 12th man on with them in spirit, the Swans forged ahead to find the equalizer. They nearly got it with a nice interplay between Rangel and Ki synthesized into a great looping shot by Dyer that almost went in behind Cech – he just managed to tipped it over the net. Finally, the climax: executed in Barcelona style, with Ki being one of several players who helped move the ball forward ever closer to the goal -and with just 2 minutes of regulation time left, Pablo Hernandez rocketed a shot that blew past Cech in the far post. Boom. Game over (after 4 minutes of additional stoppage time) and with it, Chelsea knocked off their 1st place perch. Some draws feel like wins, and this was certainly one of them for Swansea. Unfortunately for Ki, he drew a yellow card in stoppage time. Ki’s not known for being hot tempered, but there he was, yelling at the officials who incorrectly gave Chelsea a last minute corner kick. Apparently the vehemence in Ki’s tone was worthy of drawing the ref’s ire. After the match, Juan Mata remarked about how familiar the Swans looked; it was as if he was witnessing a La Liga side instead of a Welsh team. The Spaniard went on talking about his close relations with Hernandez, who was teammates and roommates with while with Valencia, as well as Michu, who were all part of the Real Oviedo academy as youngsters. You can read about Mata’s waxing poetic about Swansea’s style here.
Barcelona 3 : Celta Vigo 1
Park Chu-Young made his debut appearance at Camp Nou in the 80th minute, but by then the score was already 3:1 with Jordi Alba scoring the third goal while being clearly offsides [replays showed Alba 5 feet offsides when David Villa just started threading the ball to him in the box]. After a few minutes after coming on the pitch, Park managed to get into a delicious position to score: Robert Lago received a ball from Aspas just at the edge of the box right side of Barca’s keeper Victor Valdes -Lago’s marked with defenders in front of him and Park wide open on Valdes left side. Instead of getting the ball to Park, he fired a shot high and wide of the net, wasting a great opportunity. Park didn’t get to see much of the ball afterwards, with Barca playing keep away towards the end of the match. He did get in a good defensive effort as the game was winding down, and nearly dispossessed Pedro of the ball. The loss was disappointing but Celta still came away with pride intact, having kept the match fairly close with the giants of La Liga. Tavern sources have indicated Park may still have some nagging injuries that could be factoring into his lack of playing time and goals recently. We need to check the veracity of the reports. One thing for sure, Celta Vigo had the toughest 2 weeks of their campaign, with Real Madrid and Barca back to back. CV for the most part had their game on and looked good at various points in the 2 matches. Now that those tests are over, Celta can breathe a sigh of relief and go on to beat up every other team who isn’t Real Madrid and Barcelona. By the way, Leonel Messi hurt his right knee, possibly hyperextending it late in the game. He didn’t get any goals (big up to Celta’s injury depleted defense), but was inspired to play only one day after the birth of his first son. Messi, usually an even tempered lad, punched a Celta Vigo player, midfielder Jonathan Vila in the back out of frustration for breaking up one of his runs. None of the refs caught it, but an annoying camera production crew certainly did. This youtube video should be watched with the volume muted; trust me, the video editing, sound production is ridiculously irksome.
Hamburg 0 : Bayern Munich 3
Son Heung-Min played decently, if not spectacularly in this 3-0 caning by Bayern Munich. Hamburg has outplayed some of the giants of the league, beating Hannover and Borussia Dortmund earlier this year, so it was a game eagerly anticipated by the home side as a chance to slay more giants. Didn’t happen. Son-Van der Vaart connection was disconnected, and Son’s bid for his 6th goal of the year falls far short. Bayern Munich has been on a rampage this season to punish just about everyone, seemingly for last year’s failure to win the European championship.
Bolton 2 : Cardiff 1
This was gearing up to be an epic Korean derby of a sort, with Lee Chung-Yong of Bolton on one corner and Kim Bo-Kyung of Cardiff on the vistors side. Hearing the sound of a balloon deflating tells you that there were less-than-stellar performances from our Korean midfielders and especially from the referees with an utterly blown call that decided the match unjustly. Other than a foul Let’s go to our man in Cardiff for more on the game, Tavern contributor CJay: the fishtail half was a dogged midfield battle, with both teams cancelling each other out. I felt Lee Chung-Yong had a better first half. Kim Bo-Kyung seemed very nervous and made some poor decisions and lost easy balls. Chungy had a good amount of running in him, was willing to run more at defenders than Kim. Second half, Kimbo played much better, his passing and movement was more like the previous game. And just as Cardiff were looking to close out the game, Bolton got very very lucky with a penalty. If you’ve seen replays, Bolton’s striker Ngog is clearly going down before Kimbo makes minimal contact. So whilst he gave away the penalty, the officials made a complete mess up [Bolton’s Petrov converts the PK and evens the score]. It was Lee’s shot I believe that was turned in by the Bolton striker Petrov in the 74th minute. He definitely seemed a bigger threat in the second half. Overall I would say Kim was nervous and not up to standard. His head didn’t seem to be on today and it was just one of those games. However, at times he still had good moments. Lee started off slow and built into the game during the second half, where I imagine the team talk at half time helped.
Kim played 70 minutes before being subbed out for Aron Gunnarsson. Lee put in 79 minutes before defender Tim Ream came on for him. At the conclusion of the match, Cardiff still maintains the lead in the English Championship table by goal differential. Bolton stays out of the relegation zone, and while mired in 17th place, yet remarkably is only 5 points away from 6th place Blackburn, which is within promotional fighting range. Excellent reporting CJay. Our intrepid contributor suffered an arm injury over the weekend in the name of football. Let’s wish him a speedy recovery, so he can get back on the pitch for his Welsh side.
Sunderland 0 : Aston Villa 1
Ji Dong-Won not in the 18 man roster. I don’t like sounding like a broken record, so I’ll have my Tavern statistician remind Martin O’Neil yet again, Sunderland has only scored a pathetic 5 goals this season. Swansea scored 5 in their first game of the season. All 5 goals have come from 1 forward: Steven Fletcher. Louis Saha, their August ‘surprise’ from Tottenham has been a bust. The lack of scoring options is just a part of their middling mediocrity this year. Not having talented youngsters like Conner Wickham and Ji Dong-Won come forward and given chances for the first team is more than daft (the Tavern statistician reminds me that the pair haven’t seen a single minute on the pitch this year). It’s bewildering, and fans are starting to froth at the mouth, calling for heads to roll, particularly O’Neils’. I do not like re-quoting myself, but my hand has been forced: “Will Martin O’ Neil win an Oscar for his role as George W. Bush, staying the course in the midst of a rapidly deteriorating quagmire?”
FC Basel 2 : Young Boys 0
Park Joo-Ho played 11+minutes in a 2-0 victory at home. He came in for Philip Degen and took over his right back position. As soon as he came in he had immediate impact; nice interplay between Park and Streller leads to Valentin Stocker a shot at goal, but is blocked by Young Boys’ netkeeper. The Swiss side cruised on for the win. They face Videoton FC in Europa League action on Thursday.
Queens Park Rangers 1 : Reading 1
Park Ji-Sung is still recovering from knee injuries and was not in the roster. Both QPR and Reading remain hapless in the relegation zone, each still do not have any wins, but with the draw QPR no longer occupies the last position. That honor now lies with Southampton.
Bayer Leverkusen 3 : Fortuna Dusseldorf 2
Admittedly not much is known about Cha Du-Ri‘s performance as he came on in the 46th minute for forward Nando Rafael (who scored Fortuna’s first in the 40th minute). Nando came out due to a groin injury. Cha, usually a right back, has been allowed to experiment with playing forward and midfield positions for Dusseldorf in recent matches (he was originally a forward early in his career). A bruising loss to Bayern Munich saw an end to that experiment, and he switched to his old back line position. Suddenly he was thrust up front again, but it’s not clear if he was a forward striker or a midfielder. The little tidbit of information the Tavern can discern from Cha’s time on pitch is he fired a left footed shot in the 57th minute outside the box, but it was blocked. Still it was close as Fortuna Dusseldorf narrowed the deficit, with Adam Bodzek scoring late in the 86th minute, but in the end were unable to find the equalizer. The Tavern is going to get a chance to review Cha’s performance and the mystery surrounding his role in the game later in the week.
Be back with you midweek. Cardiff and Bolton both play on Tuesday, while FC Basel sees some Thursday Europe League action. Next weekend, on top of Koreans playing for their European sides, we will also tune into the Asian Champions League Finals in Ulsan on November 10th. Will the dynamic duo of ‘the Wookie’ Kim Shin-Wook & Lee Keun-Ho combine forces to give the South Korean side a victory over Saudi side Al Ahli?
UPDATE: for RSS feed subscribers to the Tavern, we were hit late Sunday night with a hack attack. An advertisement/spam post came out of the Tavern shilling for a credit card. Obviously, please disregard any hacked posts – it wasn’t from us. We are taking steps to shore up the Tavern’s cyber defenses for future hack attacks. My new Tavern security specialist is on it.
Meanwhile, wishing everyone who is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy a speedy return to normalcy. Also a particular election deciding the fate of the Presidency is going on here stateside on Tuesday. The Tavern is still kinda new, so I hesitate alienating anybody unnecessarily by simply posting an endorsement. I will instead encourage all US based Tavern goers to rock the vote. But if you had to guess where my political sentiments lie, let me just say, there’s been a candidate who’s been more about fear mongering, who has been willing to say anything to win, unafraid to distance himself from efforts to disenfranchise minority voters with bewildering and unnecessary voter-id laws, a candidate who views corporations as people, and has been unapologetic of the unlimited anonymous campaign contributions that has pumped undue corporate influence into the entire electoral process. Voting for that candidate, man, you can count me out. That’s all I’m saying. Good night.