I’m just putting up the bare bones results here, and Roy will be in later to give you some more color. Props to Jae, he got the party up and started. Not a bad weekend, here’s a bit of color:
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We’re pumped about the hat trick from Son, but that was so Saturday ago. The Sunday games are providing some scintillating talking points. One of the big upsets of the weekend – Sunderland pulled it off yet again against Manchester City. The last 3 seasons, Manchester City would march into the Stadium of Light looking (on paper) invincible against a Black Cats team in a state of perpetual dissolution. Each time, the result ends up the same, a low scoring Sunderland victory, and despite deep pocketed resources – Man City scratching their heads wondering how or why. Who can forget Ji Dong-Won getting that magnificent last second New Years day goal to notch one of the few losses in Manchester City’s eventual title winning season? This time it was Phil Bardsley doing the giant killing goal scoring. The fullback seemed as surprised as the goalkeeper, whoever that non-Joe Hart fella was when his ball slipped past him and into the net instead of linking up with Giaccherini. But as the football analysts at the Tavern were keenly aware (as were the broadcasters calling the game), Ki was the man driving the new, improved Sunderland, Gus Poyet edition. Ki Sung-Yeung was brilliant- not brilliant in the flashy goal scoring sort of way, but doing what we know he can do really well – keeping calm, maintaining possession in midfield, efficient, effective distribution with clinical accuracy and vision. That may seem mundane, but you’d be wrong -his effort really stood out and Sunderland never looked better all season -surprising everyone with how well they were playing their passing game in staying aggressive offensively with Man City. They didn’t look like a team in the relegation zone. Post match, a number of media articles came out (including this one from Kristan Heneage in the Guardian), praising Ki and Poyet in making this sensible and rationale roster change (including adding back to the starting XI, Giaccherini, who along with Ki was inexplicably missing from the Blackcats when they lost to Hull last weekend).
If you get to watch the game in replay (easy to do in the US with NBC’s Live Extra – but games on replay expire on Nov 15th), do check out the match in it’s glorious entirety. In particular, keep an eye out for the first half where Ki drives forward towards the box, catching Man City’s backs off guard. Space opens up and Ki tries to find Fletcher, who stops instead of going forward into the box. The ball goes out for a goalkick instead of the back of the net. Was Fletcher right to be peeved about Ki not giving it right to his feet instead of playing him forward? You decide (actually Fletcher was in the wrong. I can be biased about Ki, but I’m telling you objectively, Fletcher blew it in this instance). In the 2nd half (52′), driving up the center, Ki has a spectacular loping pass that looks at first glance like it’s going out of bounds. But you’d be wrong (yet again) to judge so quickly – the pass found it’s intended Blackcat winger and the ball marched further, deeper in Man City territory. Moments later, Ki get onto a rebound and fires the volley off – a rocket of a shot- just wide of post. The Stadium of Light applauded the effort – including Gus Poyet who started up the chorus of applause from Sunderland’s bench. But those were just a few of the beautiful plays on display by Ki and the rest of the energized Blackcats.
One more point to raise: Phil Bardsley was one of Paulio DiCanio’s players that he buried (something about being punished for a night of boozing about town). After DiCanio was sacked, Gus Poyet brought him back out of the woodworks: not overlooking Bardsley paid off in dividends last Sunday. Point being, I don’t think Gus is done looking through the list of players DiCanio rode off, including Ji Dong-Won. Some at the Tavern have been worried about his lack of playing time in recent matches; he’s not been in the 18 for Sunderland in the past several weeks. But there’s some new speculation that he hasn’t been seen perhaps because of injury. I want to be careful: there’s no real evidence to back up that theory, but it could explain why he hasn’t appeared under new management. His last appearance, an eventual loss to Manchester United, Ji looked fairly good off the bench. Regardless, as Gus is still getting a better understanding of who exactly he has in the organization – whether Ji gets overlooked or not, it seems plausible Ji will see some action by January at the latest. That’s when the transfer window opens up and Augsburg, among other German teams will no doubt be chomping at the bits to secure his services. They haven’t forgotten his contributions in helping them stay afloat in the Bundesliga last season. Ji to the rescue again?
Park Joo-Ho and Mainz won their derby against Eintracht Frankfurt. He played as a midfield/left winger again and from reports we overheard, he played his role competently. It wasn’t a convincing win, but it stopped a downward trend for Mainz.
We have observations from the other Koreans playing abroad Saturday in an earlier post (the one where we exclaimed Son’s hat trick from the rooftops) here..
But adding to our previous Saturday roundup, as I was wandering around on BSK forum, someone had posted a youtube highlight reel of Hong Jeong-Ho’s minutes on the pitch for Augsburg against Bayern Munich. Augsburg would eventually lose 3-0, but strictly from watching the video, it looked like Hong did a decent enough job in central defence against the European Champs.
By now you already heard about Son Heung-Min and his hat trick, or not if you listened to the latest Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast. The only time they mentioned Koreans was in reference to Evergrande’s Asian Champions League win that ended the K-League’s Asian title holding dominance (K League clubs have won 3 out of the past 4 trophies). Let’s see, they mentioned Bayer Leverkusen’s victory over Hamburg and the huge 5:3 scoreline. Anything on Son though? No, no love for Son – a glaring omission –shame on them – sooner or later they’re going to need an Asian football pundit. Better yet, an Asian football hipster/pundit. Seems a good enough reason to check out a more Korean-centric podcast on football – one we at the Tavern proudly released on Friday night. However, as Jinseok discovered on the interwebs, there is more than plenty to go around in Korea for Son -though he might question the method of the display. Go ahead, you’re allowed to roll your eyes at the tribute/love for Son video. But admit it, you bopped your head to the beat – don’t deny it!
BTW: turns out Son was feeling both triumphant…and sad for HSV. Pretty well balanced post match comments by Son – but still, it might not tamper HSV supporters ill feelings toward their wayward son.