FC Seoul v Suwon – The ‘Supermatch’
They call it the ‘Supermatch’, the largest game in Asia, on Sunday FC Seoul welcomed Suwon to Sangam World Cup Stadium for a match that would go a long way to decide what the two teams would be playing for after the split. Seoul had decided to make this match their “expat day” event. This includes free hot dogs and beer, ‘cheergirls’ and a discount for foreigners. It seemed a little strange to use a match against rivals Suwon for this kind of event as it doesn’t normally need a promotion to get a near capacity crowd. As it turned out over 41,000 turned up on what was a gloriously sunny October afternoon, with everyone hoping the football would emulate the weather. The fact that there were so many foreigners present coupled with it being one of the Diablos Blancos last matches before returning to England I decided to watch the match from the Diablos area. I would say from their seats but they don’t actually have seats and instead use one of the aisles in which to stand for the match, much to the cartoon annoyance of some patrons.
Much is made of the rivalry between certain clubs in Korea and this one does get pretty animated at times but I don’t think Danny Dyer is going to be paying us a visit anytime soon. I unusually arrived really early for the game and so made my way to the GS at the top of the escalator for a quick beer whilst waiting on a friend before heading into the ground. Outside the GS there is always a guy selling beer out of a fridge full of ice cold water, great in principle but unfortunately on Sunday the only beer available was Budweiser. I put all my pride to one side and grabbed a can. It didn’t take long for the after taste to wash away the shame! I was soon making my way up the stairs to the ticket box to get my 12,000 won discounted ticket, result. As I entered I was dutifully informed that there was “no re-entry available”, quite why someone would come and go from a football match is beyond me but hey it takes all sorts I guess.
The first thing I noticed inside was that the stadium was far from full and even though it was an hour before kick-off I was still expecting bigger numbers than present. The crowds did start filling up and with them came the atmosphere as both sets of fans waved their flags and generally created an atmosphere worthy of the ‘Supermatch” tag. The Seoul fans had Escudero flags and a huge FC Seoul replica shirt, the Suwon fans had their Frente banners and one about the crowd being the 12th man.
The match started at a pretty frantic pace, it took all of 15 seconds for Suwon to have their first foray forward, Santos striking one from distance which Kim Yong Dae parried to safety. It kind of set the scene for what was to come. Although both teams were obviously trying to attack a lot of the play seemed to be concentrated in the middle of the pitch. Cha was providing good width for Seoul on the right and both Roger and Santos looked threatening on the break for Suwon. The game was generally pretty even first half although the feeling was that Suwon looked the more dangerous and best bet for a goal. Escudero was becoming more involved towards the end but in truth I might just have thought that as he was sporting a rather ‘tight’ shaven head that made him fairly noticeable. On the half hour mark he forced Jung Sung Ryong into a world class save with a drive from the edge of the box. Just as the first half was drawing to a close Suwon sprung the offside trap and but for heroic defending from Osmar it would’ve been 1-0 Suwon. The first half came and went and we were goalless, something Seoul fans have become accustomed to of late, and talk turned to when we would see the introduction of Molina (Seoul) or Jong Tae Se (Suwon) two almost panto-esque villains at times in this fixture. I also, for the first time, realized why the Diablos stand where they do, the atmosphere at that location is pretty impressive.
The second half started much like the first and it looked obvious almost straight away which team talk had been the most influential as Suwon started to boss the midfield. With just over 50 mins on the clock Roger found himself in space, his shot narrowly beating Kim but agonisingly coming back off the far post. Seoul survived the scare but had they heeded the warning? The answer was clear as after less than a minute Seoul were 1-0 down. A great cross from the left was met by an equally great header from Roger, a simple goal and it was 1-0 Suwon and to be honest nothing less than they deserved. Seoul threw on Molina to try and salvage at least a point but short of a couple of free-kicks he wasn’t able to exert any real influence on the match. With time running out he was put through by the impressive Escudero who seemed the only Seoul player who hadn’t resigned himself to defeat. Molina should’ve buried the chance but instead shot tamely at Jung and it was all too little too late for Seoul. There was still enough time deep into stoppage time for Suwon’s North Korean striker Jong Tae Se to break clean through and miss when it looked easier to score. But the damage had already been done and the game finished 1-0. All that was left was to head back to GS and the comfort of some more Cass. I soon found myself drinking with a few FC Seoul fans and some Suwon fans who had gathered near us. It was a pleasant sight to see these ‘rivals’ able to drink together after a derby match but then I guess Korean rivalry is probably as weak as it’s beer.
The win over Seoul hoisted Suwon to second place and keeps them within catching distance of Jeonbuk. Seoul remain 6th but only 2 pts clear of Ulsan who they travel to meet on Thursday. The next couple of games before the split will be critical for both teams to see if they have anything of note to play for after the split.
The weekend’s other results were
Seongnam 0 Jeonbuk 1 – Seongnam slip back into the relegation battle, Jeonbuk go 5 clear.
Jeonnam 0 Gyeongnam 0 – Jeonnam sit precariously in 5th, Gyeongnam claw themselves up to 9th
Jeju 1 Ulsan 0 – Jeju keep themselves safe in 4th, Ulsan fail to put pressure on Seoul
Pohang 0 Busan 0 – Pohang slipping to 3rd and dreams of back-to-back titles fading, Busan rooted at the bottom
Incheon 1 Sangju 0 – Incheon should be safe from relegation now, Sangju joint bottom with Busan