Over the last few years Seongnam FC have had some spectacular advertising promotions for their games, the tagline for the visit of Pohang was a simple, but powerful ‘Remember’ as the club geared up to welcome The Steelers for the first time since they effectively relegated them back in 2016. Seongnam have not exactly had a stellar record against Pohang over the years and had not defeated them at the Seongnam Sports Complex since longer than most of the flag-waving ultras behind the goal could remember, maybe that was the meaning behind the promotion!
After the last rambling’s bag search I craftily came up with some smuggling techniques to get past security, they wouldn’t be needed as there was no search this time round and so I settled down for what was to be a fantastic game of football with a bottle or two of Gaedo Makgeolli (개도 막걸리)
If Seongnam had started the previous home match against Jeju in a rather lackluster manner they definitely came out the blocks on fire in this one and looked like the team who had bossed Daegu for large parts of the 1st half the previous weekend. Seongnam do look like a team that are only a couple of players, a goalscorer mostly, away from being a top-six team and for long periods in this game they made Pohang look downright ordinary. The hero from the Jeju match, Mathias, was proving to be a handful pretty much from kick-off with his pace and twisting turns and runs. If he was only two-footed Seongnam would have a right good player on their hands! The Magpies were beginning to pile the pressure on Pohang and you got the feeling a goal was coming, when it came it was Kim Min-hyeok the hero as he lashed home a long range effort from the edge of the box. It was a beautiful strike and a great way to bid farewell before heading off to join Sangju for his military service. Seongnam could have, and probably should have, added a second before half-time as they continued to pour forward but they would have to settle for a 1-0 lead as the whistle sounded for the break.
The mood among the Seongnam fans at half-time was one of optimism as Pohang had looked devoid of ideas and Nam Ki-il, in his 200th match in management, seemed to have got his tactics spot on. Pohang, however, seemed to have re-grouped at HT and started the 2nd half with much more drive and purpose and began to confidently stroke the ball around the pitch stretching and exposing holes in the Seongnam midfield. As the half wore on you got the feeling that the game had another goal in it, it was just a question of which side would score it. As Pohang and especially Lee Seok-hyun continued to dictate play in the 2nd half they were beginning to leave gaps at the back and in the 75th minute they were made to pay for it. A harmless looking cross into the box saw Kim Min-hyeok challenge for the ball with Kim Ji-min, the ball striking the hand of the latter and a penalty awarded. At the time it looked as stonewall a penalty as I’ve seen, replays would suggest that it was not quite so clear-cut. Kim Jeong-hyun stepped up and slotted the ball past the keeper for 2-0 and all but killed Pohang’s confidence and the tie. Pohang should have snatched a consolation goal at the death as the hugely impressive Seok-hyun swung a cross into the box but Lee Jin-hyun’s header was saved by Kim Dong-jun and the game finished 2-0 and a huge three points for Seongnam.
The result went some way to erasing that dark day in Pohang in November 2016 when Seongnam failed to get the point they sorely needed to survive in the K-League One, it was also a milestone in that it was Nam’s 200th game in management and, as mentioned above, was one of only ten home victories for over Pohang. It is obviously too early to be calling it a ‘season-defining’ result but it was a hugely important win for The Magpies and one that seen them not only climb to 7th in the table but also put some much needed light between them and Incheon and Jeju at the bottom of the table, giving their next few matches include games against Ulsan and Jeonbuk that is light they will sorely need.