As the curtain was closing on the first ‘quarter’ of the K-League One the trophy engravers were all but chiseling the name of Jeonbuk Hyundai in the 2018 slot as the Chmapions raced into a 9pt lead after only eleven matches. Bluewings, their nearest challengers, had drawn 0-0 with Ulsan only a few days after not bothering to show up at all for their “title clash” at Jeonju World Cup Stadium and it’s safe to say only a collapse (or a points deduction) is going to loosen Jeonbuk’s choke-hold on Korean football. Elsewhere we had FC Seoul celebrating the departure of the heavily unpopular Hwang Sun Hong by ….. drawing 0-0 with Gyeongnam and they now sit in 9th spot with 9 goals for and 9 goals against. There was to be a third goalless draw in Match Day 11 as Pohang and Incheon couldn’t find the net, or indeed a spark of creativity. All is not doom and gloom though as the almost 2000 souls that made their way to Seogwipo (Jeju World Cup Stadium) were served up an enthralling match as despite taking the lead 3 times in the 1st half, Jeju would find themselves on the wrong end of a 5-3 defeat at the hands of Gangwon.
And so it is that as the fixtures come thick and fast due to the World Cup break we find ourselves with another Supermatch less than a month after the last one. The powers that be at K-League HQ have decided to use the big Children’s Day holiday weekend to treat us to a hat-trick of local derbies with of course a Seoul v Suwon match still being seen as the game in Korea.
2018 K-League Once ~ Match Day 12 – ‘Match of the Day’
FC Seoul vs Suwon Bluewings
With the departure of Hwang from the Seoul hot-seat it has been left to caretaker manager Lee Eul Yong (who scored in the 2002 World Cup 3rd/4th playoff with Turkey) to take the reins not only for this match but also, it seems, until the end of the season.There is of course no better way to get fans on board than to smash your rivals although a quick look at the league table and current form would suggest a slight nudging past them 1-0 with a dodgy VAR decision would also get the Suhonshin lining up for ‘Lee is a Legend’ tattoos! It says a lot about Seoul’s season so far that when casting an eye over their squad for this week’s ‘player to watch’ that is was the man between the sticks that jumped out. Yang Han Bin (pictured left) has definitely cemented this place as Seoul’s number one this season and has often been the difference between defeat and draw for the capital city club as they have meandered aimlessly through the first half of 2018. Indeed you actually wonder just how bad a season it could have been if it wasn’t for his command of the box and often ‘cat-like’ reflexes. Seoul have only conceded 9 games in the 11 games played which is the 2nd best in the league behind runaway leaders Jeonbuk. In the last clash between the two sides he was rarely called into action, it’s rare to get two such easy games against your rivals (well unless you are Celtic) and he might just be called upon to make a couple of “Super Saves” this time round.
When the two sides clashed back in early April most of the pre-match chatter was about the prospect of Dejan (pictured right) lining up against his old team and of course all the points that he was going to prove to Hwang. He was taken off with 10 minutes to go and hadn’t really been overly involved in the match, although that being said who had been involved? This week sees his first return to his old stomping ground having scored the goal against Kashima Antlers which put the Bluewings into the last 16 of the Asian Champions League. He was an unused substitute against Jeonbuk but returned to the starting lineup for the midweek draw with Ulsan. He is obviously a ‘big game’ player and despite not exactly banging the goals in domestically will, without doubt, be the biggest name and threat to take the field on Saturday. The Bluewings may have stuttered a little of late and have probably seen their title challenge peter out quicker than it really began but it shouldn’t be forgotten that they had only tasted defeat once in twelve matches in all competitions before the Jeonbuk surrender. They have a 3pt lead over third placed Gyoengnam who they defeated 3-1 a couple of weeks ago and do possess several players more than capable of punishing a team if given the chance. With Dejan’s almost telepathic ability to bring his teammates into play it doesn’t really augur well for a Seoul defence that doesn’t exactly cite pace among their strengths.
The teams have met a total of 57 times down the years and there really isn’t a whole lot between them with Bluewings just shading the head-to-heads with 23 victories to Seoul’s 20. The last match was of course a 0-0 draw which drew wild, if not over the top, criticism for being a 90 min bore-fest with the fact that this was only the 2nd 0-0 draw EVER between the two teams being ignored. FC Seoul were undefeated against their bitter rivals last year, drawing both the home battles while winning on both trips down to Suwon. In fact Seoul haven’t lost a home Supermatch since October 2014 when they fell 1-0 to a Roger goal and it’s fair to say that they’ve made good use of home advantage down the years. After the negative press surrounding the clash earlier this year plus their respective league positions and aspirations both teams might just come into the match with an extra incentive to put on a show and claim the victory. Suwon might have one eye on their trip to Ulsan midweek for the first leg of their ACL clash with Ulsan but what better way is there to go into such a huge match than on the back of a rousing performance in The Supermatch?
Prediction : Score Draw : Seoul 1 : Bluewings 1
Also in K-League One this week we have…..