The first round of the Championship Group didn’t disappoint as we watched Jeonbuk falter yet again as they fell to a late Pohang winner on the Saturday only for Suwon to blow the opportunity by succumbing to a toothless defeat at the hands of Jeju. Seoul were also able to maintain their ‘mathematically possible’ title chances by coming from behind to stun Seongnam with two goals in the last five mins, a result which severely dented Seongnam’s chances of claiming the final ACL spot for next season. Round two has a lot to live up to but with Seoul hosting Jeonbuk and Seongnam hosting Suwon we just might see a repeat of the drama we witnessed in round 1.
Pohang v Jeju – Saturday 2pm
The early kick-off on Saturday sees Pohang welcome Jeju to The Steelyard in a match which depending on other results could see Pohang move into 2nd spot and close the gap on Jeonbuk to 6pts. Pohang are pretty much the form team in the top league right now having won their last five matches with the most recent being a 92nd winner away to Jeonbuk last weekend. While much has been made of Suwon’s title challenge, or lack there of, Pohang have gone about their business quietly and now find themselves with a real chance of knocking Suwon down into at least third. Jeju have also been on a good run of form recently and although having nothing to play for could still have a real say in who finishes with the prizes this year and who’s season was all for nothing. They ripped a hole in Suwon’s title pursuit last weekend by winning in The Big Bird can they now knock Pohang off track too? The three encounters between the teams this season have resulted in two victories for Jeju and one for Pohang, in fact the match in The Steelyard was a seven goal epic with Jeju scoring three goals in a two minute assault. Pohang won 1-0 the last time the two teams met with Son Joon Ho scoring a 40th minute penalty, it could take another spot-kick to separate the two teams again this weekend.
Prediction : Pohang 1 Jeju 1
Seongnam v Suwon – Saturday 4pm
After a first round of fixtures that promised so much yet delivered so little both teams will be wanting to bounce back with a victory when they take to the field on Saturday. Seongnam come into the match on the back of a confidence-sapping injury time defeat at the hands of Seoul last Saturday. A match that they led for 84 minutes was surrendered to goals from Ko Yo Han and Adriano. A lot of talk this year has been on how organized and stubborn the Seongnam defence has been but on this occasion the only stubbornness on show was from Kim Hak Bum as he chose to ‘park the bus’ for the full second half only to see it backfire. That defeat leaves Seongnam looking unlikely to claim an ACL place next season as the momentum is surely with Pohang and Seoul now. Speaking of a lack of momentum quite how Suwon failed to capitalize on Jeonbuk’s Steven Gerrard style slip was ridiculous. They have had several chances of late to claw points back on the champions but have contrived to throw each one away. It really is beginning to look like they really don’t have the winning mentality nor the bottle to actually challenge for silverware. The match against Jeju really was one they should have been winning every day of the week but when it came to stepping up to the plate nobody in a blue shirt seemed up for the task. The three matches between these two so far this season have resulted in one win each and the other a 1-1 draw. Seongnam did win the last match 1-0 in Suwon, it’s going to take another monumental effort from them to pull off a similar result this time around.
Prediction : Seongnam 0 Suwon 0
Seoul v Jeonbuk – Sunday 4pm
If confidence and morale won matches then Seoul would win this one 5-0 after last weekend. Fresh from winning in the last minute last Sunday they take on a Jeonbuk side who in contrast must be drained after losing in the last minute last Saturday. Buoyed by a ‘it’s not over until it’s over’ train of thought Seoul have managed to win four out of their last five league matches coming from behind in three of them. They have developed a ‘play until the final whistle’ mentality which has seen them continue to push on and win matches they would undoubtedly have lost in the first half of the season. The big questions, which will be answered on Sunday, are can they keep it going and can they cast some doubt on an already shaky looking Jeonbuk squad. As well as the new found winning mentality Seoul have been boosted by the signing of Adriano who has looked every bit the player people thought he was when racking up the goals for Daejeon last year. In contrast Jeonbuk have been severely weakened by the crazy decision to let Edu leave and the almost as crazy decision to think Lee Keun Ho could fill his boots. A victory for Seoul on Sunday would still leave them 8pts behind with 9 to play but it could just open the door for Pohang. Jeonbuk currently have the upper hand on Seoul this year having won two of the three matches this season but then again they did have Edu for one of them. A lot will come down to the performances of Adriano for Seoul and Lee Dong Gook for Jeonbuk, keep either of them quiet and the 3pts might just be in the bag. Seoul need the win to keep the dream alive, Jeonbuk need the win to stop the nightmares, who will sleep easiest on Sunday evening will be clear come 6pm.
Prediction : Seoul 1 Jeonbuk 2