5 things from this week’s K-League
Jeonbuk are favorites for a reason
All the pre-season talk and predictions had Jeonbuk favorites to retain their title and even though we are only one match into the season it’s already looking tough to imagine anyone knocking them off their perch. Sure a 2-0 home victory over Seongnam isn’t going to raise any eyebrows but it was the manner of the victory that should have the other teams running for cover right now. Jeonbuk pummeled Seongnam in the first half, a 45 minute period that resulted in something like 11 corners. The fact they only took a 1-0 lead into half-time was surprising. The second half was more balanced and Seongnam to their credit, refused to wilt under the first half pressure. But even though they had chances to pull level you always felt that Jeonbuk would have had enough in the tank to retake the lead if need be. Its going to take a monumental effort from the others to stop Jeonbuk making it 2-in-a-row.
It could be a long season for Daejeon fans
It’s always tough for a team after promotion especially when they have a runaway title success like Daejeon had last year. They completely outclassed everyone in the Challenge League last year and this will obviously have increased expectation form their fan base. Their first match was against one of the teams they will most likely be fighting against to remain in the league and by all accounts they disappointed. This was actually the only match on Saturday that I didn’t get to watch any of but judging by Twitter comments (especially @korfan12 and @ArmchairRegista) it sounded pretty woeful stuff from Daejeon. Adriano was the big difference for them and apparently he was less than fit for the league opener, for the sake of Daejeon fans I hope he gets back to fitness soon.
The fans came out in numbers
Much has been made in recent years of the dwindling attendances at K-League fixtures but this weekend saw fans turn out in record numbers. From 24,000 taking in Jeonbuk v Seongnam, Jeonnam v Jeju selling out and even Incheon managing to pull a crowd of 8000 for their match against Gwangju it really was a huge turnout. I took in Suwon v Pohang where almost 18,000 watched Pohang stun the hosts. It was the first time I was amongst the Pohang support and I was impressed by their passion and support for the their team. They sang and danced for pretty much the whole match and really helped be the 12th man for their team. This one enthusiastic guy in a white shirt in particular only stopped jumping up and down to replenish his stock of beer, oh yeah and get lost on the way back to his seat much to the amusement of all around him.
From a cake-hat to a red card it wasn’t Oh Beom Seok’s day
Oh Beom Seok may have started the day with a cake on his head but he ended it with egg on his face as he was on the receiving end of probably the most ridiculous red card I’ve seen. He manged to get yellow-carded twice in the space of 30 seconds. The fact that both cards were from the same Pohang free-kick and both were for ‘handbags’ in the Suwon penalty box made it even more farcical. The half was running out when Pohang won a free-kick on the left, as Andre Moritz was getting ready to swing the free-kick in Oh got involved in some jostling with a Pohang player, he appeared to grab him by the throat to try and push him away and the referee had a word and booked both players. End of story surely? Nope! Amazingly as Moritz steadied himself to try and swing the ball in again Oh got involved in another off the ball incident. This one resulted in a Pohang player lying on the ground and Oh finding himself sent off and trudging back to the dressing room. You could argue that the referee could have dealt with things differently but in all honesty if a player can’t learn his lesson from a yellow card he has to go.
The new foreigners done well
Part of the eagerly awaited new season for any fan is how your new players will perform and in Korea this often means how will the new foreigners play in particular. Saturday and Sunday seen a few new and returning faces in the K-League and I think for the most part they did well. Obviously Edu made an instant hit with the Jeonbuk masses and bagged himself a brace, even the often criticized Server Djeparov had a goal-scoring debut for new club Ulsan. A goal which it should be noted that he didn’t really celebrate. The story goes that he locked eyes with the founder of the Diablos who are FC Seoul’s foreign supporters group and thought twice, though the source of this is said Diablo so I’ll leave the accuracy of this up to you.
A criticism often aimed at foreign players in the K-League is a lack of passion or effort but on this weekend’s display I’m not sure that can be leveled at the current crop. Leo of Suwon was still chasing every ball at the end of Sunday’s match and both Kevin Oris and Andre Moritz found themselves in altercations with opponents in their respective matches down in part to their passion. In fact Moritz in particular spent almost as much time screaming at both opponents and teammates alike as he did breathing on Sunday. Maybe the only disappoint from a foreigner point of view was Kaio and the less said about his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon inspired howler of a miss at the end for Suwon the better.
Both Kaio’s miss (07:10) and Oh Beom Seok’s red card (03:15) can be seen below.