This midweek sees the return to action of the K-League One after the Friday night farce that was the “K-League All-stars” clash with a lackluster and late Juventus. That match did allow players such as Osmar and Cessinha to showcase their talents in front of a crowd of eager Ronaldo ‘fan-boys’ but whether it will be enough to persuade any of them to part with their cash for an real game of football will be revealed over the next couple of weeks. The last set of games before the short break saw Jeonbuk all but end FC Seoul’s title challenge with a pulsating 4-2 victory in Seoul World Cup Stadium, a Kim Seung-dae debut goal the highlight. Ulsan finally played their game in hand but were unable to make it count as they drew 2-2 with Sangju while in the bottom half of the Seongam beat bitter rivals Suwon Bluewings 2-1 away from home and Incheon surprised many by beating Pohang 2-1 in The Steelyard.
There are four games being played on the Tuesday night which could go a long way to defining the seasons of those teams involved. First up we have 2nd vs 3rd as Ulsan host FC Seoul with the home side hoping to keep up the pressure on Champions Jeonbuk after failing to go top last Tuesday night. They twice led The Army though goals from Junior and Mix but were pegged back both times, a 95th Yoon Bitgaram penalty earning Sangju a share of the points. They overcame a plucky Gangwon side last Saturday before that midweek draw with Sangju but they have scored 8 goals less than table-toppers Jeonbuk and that is almost as good as being a point behind. Ulsan have re-signed ex-goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu from Vissel Kobe and then immediately shipped Oh Seung-hoon off to Jeju in a move which might cost the latter a winner’s medal despite starting 30 games this season.
Seoul suffered their second defeat in three matches when they lost at home to Jeonbuk. It was a game that was tighter then the 4-2 scoreline might have suggested and Seoul did in fact have the ball in the net at 2-2 but Park Chu-young’s curling shot was chopped off for a foul in the build-up. Seoul’s defence looked uncharacteristically weak with Jeonbuk cutting them apart on multiple occasions, with the pace and guile available to Ulsan it could be another night to forget for the Capital club and one which could all but finish their season.
Seongnam take on Sangju fresh from their 2-1 victory over 10 man Bluewings in the Big Bird Stadium, goals from Lim Chai-min and Gong Min-hyun either side of an Adam Taggart equalizer sending the fans in black home with 3pts and bragging rights. A lot has been made, and said, of the internal battles between Nam Ki-il and the new CEO but you can’t argue about the performances that Nam is getting from a rather threadbare squad of mainly K-League Two players. He often frustrates with his tactics at times, like trying to contain a 10 man Bluewings team that would have failed to perform against the pile of empty Cass cans surrounding my feet, but he is able to get every ounce from his players and should be applauded for that. They sit relatively safe in 9th but a victory over Sangju coupled with results elsewhere going their way would give them quite a bit of breathing space.
Standing in their way of that breathing space is of course The Army who twice came from behind to draw with Ulsan last midweek. They defeated Daegu 2-0 last weekend which halted a run of defeats brewing with none other than Yoon Bitgaram also on the scoresheet that day, could he make it three games in a row against his former teammates?
Also in the bottom half of the table we have Gyeongnam travelling North to face Incheon as the bottom two clubs go head-to-head. Both teams have brought in a raft of replacements in the summer transfer window and Incheon managed to claim their first win since the end of May as a 90th minute Lee Jae-ho winner saw them defeat Pohang. That was only their third win of the season and was a vital 3pts in their bid for survival. Stefan Mugosa getting back to scoring ways is going to be essential for them if they are to avoid relegation, the Montenegrin striker netting the opening goal against Pohang. Gyeongnam had new signing Deric to thank as he opened the scoring on his debut while Luc rescued a point after they fell 2-1 behind to Jeju United. That draw means that only 2pts separate the bottom three clubs and we could be in for another nail-biting end to the season again.
Also on Tuesday night we have Suwon Bluewings heading to Daegu as both teams hope to put surprising defeats behind them and get back to winning ways and try to keep their head above water and avoid the dreaded drop into the Relegation Group.
There are only two games on Wednesday as Jeonbuk host Jeju in the 7pm kick-off while Gangwon and Pohang clash at 8pm.
As mentioned above Jeonbuk showed exactly why they have dominated the Korean scene the last six years or so as they left the Capital worthy 4-2 winners last weekend. A mixture of cavalier attacking and clinical finishing proved too much for Seoul and as the fans in green danced the night away Seoul’s slim title hopes sneaked out the stadium along with their fans. Jeonbuk have been pretty active in the window which is as much a reflection of how seriously they take Ulsan’s title run, Kim Seung-dae making an instant impact on his debut with a beautifully placed goal. With one deft right foot he quickly dispelled any concerns about the loss of The Wookie and etched his name into the hearts of the large band of traveling fans. Jeju have drawn twice since they stunned Seoul 4-2 and have seen the ground won by that defeat slowly eroded. They have thrown away leads in both those games but do have Yun Il-lok hitting form,the ex-Seoul midfielder scoring five goals in the last three outings. It will take a huge team effort to get something from this match but then again this Jeonbuk team does seem to want to keep this title race going.
The final match this midweek is Gangwon v Pohang with both teams having lost last time out, Pohang more surprisingly than Gangwon. Gangwon had looked pretty good lately but no sooner had they transferred Deric to Gyeongnam than they suffered their first league defeat since May. It should be noted of course that they were playing Ulsan and so perhaps too much shouldn’t be read into the loss. Pohang, on the other hand, somehow lost to an Incheon team that would have struggled to beat the local high school. The one highlight of the game was new recruit Iljutcenko bagging his third goal in as many games and he 100% looks like a fantastic addition to their squad and almost has the locals asking “Kim Seung-dae who?”