It’s safe to say this fixture is not exactly a favourite among the Seongnam faithful with The Magpies having won only 5 games out of 20 down the years, and throw in the fact that 3 of them have come in the last three years and you can understand why the ‘old guard’ are less than excited about their heroes making the short trip to the World Cup Stadium. When you also consider coach Choi Yong-soo’s ability to get the better of most Seongnam managers that he has faced, one of those victories was actually Hwang Sun-hong’s first game in charge, it’s easy to understand why I was looking forward to my new-born baby demanding to be fed midway through the match as it would probably excuse me from having to watch another Choi ‘smash and grab’.
The surprise news for Seongnam fans ahead of the game was that Yang Dong-hyeon was on the bench with Choi Byung-chan supporting 19yr old Hong Si-hoo upfront for the visitors. Seongnam have started the season well but did not get out of reverse gear the first 30 mins or so of this match. Seoul started the game looking like a team full of attacking promise and they harried and snapped at every Seongnam player causing more than a few mistakes, but were unable to turn any of them into clear cut chances. On the half hour mark manager Kim Nam-il made the first of his game-changing substitutions as he took of Byung-chan and brought on Yang. Almost immediately Seongnam looked to grow in confidence as Yang bullied the Seoul defence and you got the feeling the tide was turning in the match. Just before half-time Yang set up Choi Oh-Baek who should have shot first time but instead took an extra touch and the chance was gone with the HT whistle sounding soon after. It wasn’t a great first half of football but both teams had finally woken up and the 2nd half could only get better.
A “Glorious” save
The second half started much the same as the first as Seoul saw more of the ball but unlike the first half they seemed to huff and puff more when in possession and looked pretty slow and sluggish at times. In the first half they had found no way past the Seongnam defence, in the second it would be one man who would stop them from scooping all 3pts…..that man was Kim Young-kwang “Glory”. Glory has spent the last few years at Seoul E-Land and raised a few eyebrows when he moved to Seongnam in the close season. He has been on fine form since the opening day and with one flash of his right hand he pulled off a simply incredible save from point blank range to deny Ko Kwang-min the chance to open the scoring. It was one of those moments in football when one team’s heads go up as the other’s go down and you could feel the belief being drained out of the Seoul players.
Sealed with a Kis!
With the game beginning to swing Seongnam’s way Kim made the change that would earn them the victory as on the 83rd minute he brought on Tomislav “Tomi” Kis. The Croatian looked lively from the bench when he came on the previous weekend against Gangwon and wasted no time in getting in the FC Seoul player’s faces. On the 88th minute he picked up a beautiful ball forward from Iskandarov and laid it off to Lee Tae-hee. Tae-hee tried to play the ball back across goal only for Yoo Sang-hun to flap at it and effectively deflect it off Tomi’s knee and into the back of the net. It wasn’t the most graceful or skillful way to open your account for a new team but nobody cared, and as Tomi ran away arms aloft I scared my dog and woke up my baby…..but the celebration was worth it.
Full-time and it finished 1–0 and an unexpected victory at Sangnam for Seongnam, they continue their unbeaten start to the season and have only conceded once in the first 4 games. That doesn’t sound too impressive but for so long Seongnam fans have watched their team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and now, maybe, they have a team that will deliver on the pitch….it’s early days yet but this season might just be one to savor for the men in black.