The international break is over and Son Heung-min is once again the hero after opening the scoring in Korea’s 2-1 friendly win over Colombia which followed their 1-0 win over Bolivia in Ulsan. You do feel that if they ever form a World Cup made up of only friendlies that Paulo Bento might just lead Korea to glory such is his record in meaningless matches! With Sangam’s Screams for Son still ringing in the ears it’s time to look ahead to the weekend’s K-League One action and our first Friday Night Football.
The first real taste of Friday Night Football for 2019 starts this weekend as Ulsan host Jeju United. The ‘Horangi’ came back from Daegu last weekend with a share of the points in a re-run of the FA Cup final but will be disappointed to not have won the match after taking the lead in the 65th minute through a Kim Bo-Kyung strike. They are currently undefeated with two draws following their opening day victory over Suwon Bluewings.
Jeju have had a pretty dismal start to the season with two draws and a defeat and look like a team struggling for confidence at the moment. They did get a draw away to FC Seoul last weekend and played pretty well by all accounts but they need to start picking up some serious points soon if they are to start climbing up the table towards the ACL spots again.
The big news from Round 3 was of course Jeonbuk losing at home to Gangwon as Kim Ji-hyun earned himself a free beer in most K-League friendly households with his 63rd minute winner over the Champions. Jeonbuk have the chance to get back to winning ways as they host Pohang Steelers who come into the game after thumping Gyeongnam 4-1 in The Steelyard. You do wonder if both Jeonbuk and Gyeongnam were suffering from ACL “hangovers” but given Daegu’s 100% start to the season it’s an excuse that stands up less than Lee Dong-gook in an opposition penalty box.
Jeonbuk’s unexpected poor start to the season has given us a ‘top of the table’ clash on Saturday which for once doesn’t include a Hyundai sponsored team, add in the fact that it involves Seoul v Sangju, easily two of the worst teams last year, and the casual K-League observer would be forgiven for thinking there was something wrong with the league table above. The two teams boast the tightest defences in the league with only a solitary goal conceded in the six games they’ve played so far. Seoul have yet to lose a goal but have also only found the net three times so tight has been the margins in their unbeaten run so far.
The final match on Saturday is a clash of ACL participants as Gyeongnam FC welcome Daegu FC to the Changwon Football Center. Gyeongnam have lost twice since defeating Seongnam on the opening weekend while Daegu are still undefeated in 2019.
There are two matches on the Sunday and both have a little bit of extra spice added to them as Seongnam travel to Gangwon looking to punish the team that relegated them while Suwon Bluewings host rivals Incheon United in a game that very rarely disappoints.
This is not the first time that Seongnam have faced Gangwon since that fateful November back in 2016 that saw The Magpies drop down to the K-League Two. They actually met in the FA Cup the following year with Marin Orsulic the hero for Seongnam that day as he headed home the only goal of the game, but that was the Cup, this is the league and it would be sweet revenge for the visitors if they won. Gangwon have been a mixed bag ever since they seemed to have unlimited funds back in 2017 as they went on an incredible signing spree that ultimately brought them nothing. They defeated Jeonbuk last weekend on the back of a 0-0 draw away to Ulsan and on paper shouldn’t be losing this game either but then again Seongnam were unlucky against Seoul before defeating bitter rivals Buewings last weekend. This really is one of those games that you would be as well throwing darts blindfold at the league table and seeing which team you land closest to rather than trying to predict it.
The final game of the weekend Is that rather tasty Bluewings v Incheon clash in a match that, even at this early stage, the hosts really can’t afford to lose after starting the season with three defeats. Bluewings looked devoid of ideas against Seongnam, were humiliated at home by Jeonbuk and lost away to Ulsan and it’s fair to say they are having one of, if not the worst, start in recent years. It’s not quite “Bring back Seo” time but it is getting close to desperate for the players and fans alike as last week’s full-time jeers more than summed up.
Incheon, on the other hand, lost to league leaders Sangju last weekend as Park Yong-ji scored against his parent club while on military service. They did beat Gyeongnam at home the previous week and don’t look like they are missing the talismanic Moon Seon-min just yet. Under Jorn Andersen they play, arguably, some of the most attacking football in the league and given Bluewings frailties at the back must be confident of creating a chance or three.
Below are predictions for all the K-League One games