Making the 4hr bus journey south to Changwon on Independence Movement Day was not ranking among my best ideas before my boss called an impromptu “company dinner” but as the Soju head continued to pound it quickly soared up the top 10 ten ladder as memories of hungover supporter’s bus journeys to Pittodrie flashed before my eyes.
The trip was for Seongnam FC’s return to the K1 after a 2yr hiatus in the K2 (Challenge) and as such was not to be missed. It would turn out to be a probably unexpected loss as Gyeongnam looked, albeit not runners-up, the K1 team while Seongnam seemed to plod along thinking a draw was a worthy reward.
The first half was a relatively even affair with Seongnam finding the net towards the end of the 45 only to see it, probably correctly, chopped off for a foul. The 2nd half would, unfortunately, belong to Gyeongnam as they pressed further up-field and finally broke the deadlock on the hour mark as Kim Seung-jun finished off a quick attack with a deft flick past Kim Dong-jun in goals. Seongnam struggled to get a foothold in the game and it was no real surprise when Takahiro Kunimoto doubled the lead with just over 15 mins left, another quick, flowing attack leaving The Magpie’s defence flat-footed again and the majority of travelling fans reminiscing of the days of Yun Young-sun marshaling the back line. There was time for the visitors to pull one back and it was a beautifully well-worked goal as the short, quick passing of last year finally made an appearance and it was Kim Min-hyeok who finished off the move and placed the ball past the flailing arms of Lee Bum-soo.
The game finished 2-1 to the hosts as the ghost of the departing Marcao was almost, if not exactly, exorcised. English journeyman Jordan Mutch made a second half appearance and looked, every bit, the journey man as he plodded around the pitch for a 45 that Gyeongnam controlled. The two-goal lead was not undeserved but you did get the feeling that even though Gyeongnam undoubtedly had one eye on their midweek continental adventures that they will struggle to repeat last season’s heady position of runners-up. Seongnam’s moment of glory gave the traveling support something to cheer as well as an all too slim glimmer of hope with 7 mins to play but in reality it would be an opening day defeat for The Magpies and a rather long, though not uneventful, journey back home for yours truly.
The Changwon Football Center is a great little stadium, roofless but with views that could envy that of Pohang and Incheon and with a ticket costing only 10,000W it rivals Tacnheon for ‘value for money’.
After the game there were a couple of hours to kill before the KTX journey back home so it was time to explore the local neighborhood and it’s delicacies as some Changwon-style Galbi-tang and makgeolli was procured.There was also time to meet the Seongnam squad as we both waited on our KTX back home, selfies and tactical advice were imparted…..we’ll see if those ‘beats headphones’ were actually turned off or not soon enough.