Seongnam v Suwon FC – The Flag Wars Return

 

Seongnam’s Journey Back – Week 3 – The Flag Wars Return

Last year the clashes between Seongnam and Suwon FC were billed as ‘The Flag Wars’ as both mayors held their own private competition which would see the victor get to fly their “colours” at the other’s stadium, it’s safe to say that this was a bet that Seongnam’s Lee Jae Myung probably didn’t see himself losing once never mind twice across the year. We often hear the term “bogey team” get banded about in football but in fairness last year Suwon put the knife into Seongnam on more than one occasion and given the fact that only one of those four fixtures took place in Suwon it was tough for the boys in black to take. This weekend will see the first of a double-header as Seongnam welcome Suwon to town in the Challenge before meeting them again in the FA Cup 3rd Round on March 29th, also at Tancheon. Given how Seongnam have started their first year in the 2nd Division those two matches are already looking like season-defining moments.

 

 

 

 

Saturday March 18th – 5pm kick-off

While they might not stir the emotions of the fans as much as Seongnam v Bluewings derbies the games against Suwon’s poorer cousins last season were some of the most entertaining with one draw and three victories being watched by some of the largest attendances in either stadium. Suwon have started the season brightly and have two wins from two so far, having first dispatched of Anyang before last week’s scalp of Bucheon. Those two victories have them sitting in second on goal difference behind Busan. They are a solid outfit and one of their more successful tactics last year was to press their opponents, never giving them a second to breathe. This was particularly successful against Seongnam when the likes of Kim Do Heon and Hwang Uijo seemed to really struggle with the ‘close attention’. The win last week came courtesy of a Bruce Djite goal and he is definitely going to be one to watch in 2017. He signed for Suwon in the summer last year and scored a reasonable five goals in thirteen games as they battled for survival in Classic. Suwon also kept a hold of fellow Australian Adrian Leijer who impressed at the back for most of last year.

Suwon get ready to visit Tancheon again!!

Last week saw Seongnam get their first goal and first point of the 2017 campaign as they battled to a 1-1 draw down in Daejeon. The visitors took the lead in the second minute, Ahn Jae Joon with a header at the back post. Seongnam looked much more dangerous in the first half hour than they had looked all game against Busan in the opening weekend. They were pegged back when Lee Ho Seok scored for Daejeon on 36 but in all honesty it was a wicked deflection that beat Kim in goals and you got the feeling that he had the original shot more than covered. Daejeon threw everything at Seongnam in the 2nd half and Christian Danalche especially should have scored but in the end the game petered out and both teams settled for a draw and some points on the table.  Seongnam are still suffering from injuries but the games come thick and fast in the Challenge and they’ll need to find winning ways soon. This weekend against second place would be the ideal start.

The teams have met each other four times, all of which were last year, and Suwon have the upper hand having won twice and drawn once. Incredibly Seongnam have only been in the lead for a total of 20 minutes over those four matches. It is safe to say that Suwon played a huge part in Seongnam’s relegation and I’m sure The Magpies will be eager to make amends.

Prediction : Score Draw : Seongnam 1 – Suwon 1

Also in the Challenge this week we have

Daejeon v E-Land (Sat @ 3pm)

Asan v Bucheon (Sun @ 3pm)

Ansan v Anyang (Sun @ 3pm)

Busan v Gyeongnam (Sun @ 3pm)

 

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Daejeon v Seongnam – The Clash of the Citizens

Seongnam’s Journey Back – Week 2 – Clash of the Citizens

So it’s safe to say that week one of Seongnam’s journey back to the Classic didn’t quite go according to plan as one flash of Lee Jeong Hyeop accompanied by one flash from Hwang Uijo’s 50p shaped head meant that all the marketing in the world couldn’t stop the boys in black from falling to a disastrous first week defeat. It was billed as a top of the table clash but in reality it unfortunately had the look and feel of two teams far disconnected  from their previous glories with those eleven titles between them looking as hazy as the morning after a Halla-San Soju-fest. Seongnam’s new coach, Park Kyung Hoon, has publicly taken the blame for the defeat citing both tactical errors and an injury list longer than an Itaewon McDonald’s queue. He will need to right the former rather quickly if he wants to remain in the black hotseat until December.

 

Sunday March 12th – 3pm Kick-off

Round 2 sees The Magpies facing easily one of the hardest away trips in the Challenge as they make their way to Daejeon to face their fellow ‘citizens’ in a match which might already have the Seongnam faithful contemplating 4pm KTX tickets. Daejeon themselves had a fairly underwhelming opening weekend as they fell to Korea’s newest team in a 2-1 defeat in Ansan. On paper Deajeon should have been winning that one every day of the week and this might just give Seongnam some hope that they are not quite fully ready. They do boast players such as Christian Danalache among their ranks and are a team who are generally capable of rising to the big occasion.

Seongnam rely, a little too much, on Hwang Uijo and if he isn’t performing to his best, see last week, then they do tend to look a little flat and lost. Last week new signing Paulo Sergio looked as much a footballer as the season-ticket selling ajumma at the East Gate, although in fairness she was at least able to pick out some of the players! It will take a much more cohesive, passionate, fluent and generally football-like performance this weekend to prevent Seongnam cementing their place at the bottom of the table.

The teams have met thirty-nine times in their history during which Daejeon have only won five times, it is on history alone a massive mis-match but this Seongnam team lack more than just skill at times and Daejeon might just see the chance to right a few wrongs come Sunday. 

Prediction : Score Draw : Daejeon 1 – Seongnam 1

Seongnam v Busan – The Journey Back Begins!!

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And so it is that after the perils of Pohang, the torment of the final day at Tancheon and a close season that seems to have lasted forever, Seongnam FC will begin their campaign to reclaim their spot at the top table in the K-League Classic. Regarded by many as favorites to ‘bounce back up’ they will start their Challenge campaign against most people’s other favorite, Busan, in what should be a real test for both teams and what will hopefully be a cracking match for fans and neutrals alike. The Challenge this year is shaping up to be every bit as competitive as the Classic as also alongside Seongnam and Busan we have the likes of Suwon FC, Daejeon and Gyeongnam all hoping to clinch the golden ticket to the Classic.

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It was arguably the biggest shock since relegation was introduced as 7 times league winners Seongnam fell to a Heo Beom San strike back in November 2016 that would consign them to the hugely unfamiliar surroundings of the K-League Challenge for at least the 2017 season. The fact that it was only 18 months prior that Kim Do Heon’s 91st minute penalty was enough to defeat the Galacticos of Guangzhou Evergrande made the predicament all the more difficult for the fans in black to understand never mind accept. But enough reminiscing it’s almost time for “Kick-Off!”

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Seongnam FC v Busan I-Park (Saturday March 4th @ 3pm)

All Challenge-eyes will fixed on Tancheon at 3pm as two former K-League Classic heavyweights clash for the first time since August 2015 in what many expect will be the main battle for the Challenge crown in 2017. Much has changed for Seongnam since that bleak day in November as a new manager in the shape of ex-Jeju favorite Park Kyung Hoon was handed the reins and ultimately the task of resurrecting the club. Gone are fans favorites Park Jin Po, Lim Chai Min (Army) and Pitu and in their place come in ex-Daegu midfielder Paulo Sergio, Australian internationalist Dario Vidosic and Croatian Marin Orsulic. The funeral-like atmosphere that surrounded Tancheon as the Gangwon faithful celebrated promotion has been turned into a generally positive and expectant vibe, one that the fans hope can see their idols storm back to the ‘big boys playground’. Seongnam also managed to keep a hold of some key players for the 2017 season and especially Kim Dong Jun and Hwang Uijo will be pivotal to any success they have. Hwang had a bit of a nightmare 2016 but in pre-season he’s looked eager to make up for lost time, he also reverted back to his “lucky” Number 16 jersey and we all know how superstitious footballers are.

In Busan though they face a team that has also been buoyed over the close season. Cho Jin Ho left his post at Sangju after an incredible top-group finish and with him he has recruited several exciting names with Bucheon FC’s Lukian being probably the standout. They have amassed a pretty strong attacking lineup with Lee Jeong-Hyeop and Lim Sang Hyub more than capable foil for the aforementioned Lukian  It’s fair to say that last year Busan were pretty underwhelming and really struggled with their new surroundings but their close season dealings definitely resemble that of a team who mean business this year.

Over the years these two have gone toe-to-toe thirty-six times with Seongnam having the clear upper-hand having won eighteen of those encounters and in fact they have won four in a row all with a 1-0 scoreline. There is so much pressure and expectation on both these teams to do well this season and that might have a baring on performances over the first few weeks. Both managers are known for their swashbuckling attacking play and they both have players more than capable of turning a match on its head. On paper this has the potential to eclipse some of the more prominent K-League Classic parings of the opening weekend…..will it live up to it’s billing though?

Prediction : Home Win : Seongnam 2 – Busan 1

Also in the opening round of the Challenge we have

Ansan Greeners v Daejeon (Sat @ 3pm)

Anyang v Suwon (Sun @ 3pm)

Bucheon v E-Land (Sun @ 3pm)

Gyeongnam v Asan (Sun @ 3pm)

 

K-League Playoff 2nd Leg Preview

 

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At 3pm on Sunday two teams will clash in the final 90 mins of the 2016 K-League season as Seongnam FC and Gangwon FC face off in the playoff second leg at Tancheon. The match is perfectly poised after a rather tepid and oftentimes boring first leg finished 0-0 on Thursday past. With all to play for hopefully this match will serve us up a battle to last long in the memory. 

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K-League Playoff Final 2nd Leg Preview

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Seongnam FC v Gangwon FC

Seongnam will host the K-League Challenge’s Gangwon in the final match of this year’s K-League season in a game which will decide which team gets the final place in the Classic for 2017. The sight of Seongnam in the playoffs is something that even the most pessimistic among their support could not have foreseen.  They had an awful run of form toward the end of the season which saw them plummet from potential ACL participants to the playoffs.  They have only the one win in their last fifteen or so games including last week’s bore draw but more worryingly for the Tancheon die-hard is the fact they’ve only found the net once in the last six matches and that was from the spot in a 2-1 loss to Suwon FC. Too many key players have failed to perform for them in key matches and if they once again fail to turn up in the final it could be a miserable day for those in black.

Gangwon are a team playing with confidence having won both of their playoff games vs. Busan and then Bucheon 1995. They didn’t have a great end to the season and lost a few games in the final push for the playoffs although interestingly they lost to both Busan and Bucheon in the league before overcoming them in the playoffs which could be ominous for Seongnam. They boast a good group of foreign players and as was witnessed from the 1st leg they are not afraid to get down and dirty if the occasion calls.

Key Players

Seongnam –

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Pitu – There is no denying the class that Seongnam’s Argentinian number 26 possesses. He has an incredible eye for a pass, can score and is pretty deadly from set-pieces. He’s been off the boil since Kim Hak Bum left the club and has been used sparingly under the caretaker manager. He played in the 1st leg but winded himself in a challenge with the goalkeeper and limped off the pitch but should recover in time to take his place at Tancheon. If he plays there are fewer more influential midfielders in Korea and he could just be the man to pull the strings of probably Seongnam’s most important 90 mins of the last few seasons.

Gangwon

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Luiz – The Brazilian midfielder raised quite a few eyebrows during the summer transfer window when he stepped down a division from Jeonbuk, albeit on loan. This was a move which seemed to have been engineered to allow Edu to make his return to Jeonju. He’s repaid his loan deal notching up seven goals for the club and while that sounds like a meagre return it’s his experience and overall presence on the pitch which has elevated him to a key player. Having lifted no less than three K-League Classic titles during his time in Korea he knows what it takes to win big matches and is unlikely to be phased by this one. If he plays on the day he has all the skill to cause Seongnam problems.

Prediction: It will be a cagey affair with so much at stake and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if extra time is needed to separate them. Seongnam 2 – Gangwon 1 (potentially taking 120 mins to decide it)

K-League Challenge Playoff Round 2 Preview

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We’ve hardly had time to catch our breath or dry our clothes after what was a potential game of the season on Wednesday as Suwon FC just edged the first round of the playoff. A 3-3 draw was enough for them to see off the challenge of Seoul E-land and book themselves a date with destiny against Daegu on Saturday afternoon. As the scoreline would suggest the match was a pretty enthralling encounter between two teams who decided to leave defending in the dressing room. Some could argue that it was the perplexing idea of a draw ensuring victory for the home team that created or inspired such a display of attacking football or others could just argue it was rank rotten defending and atrocious conditions. I am willing to give both arguments my vote. That match has left E-land wondering about what might have been and Suwon maybe just maybe beginning to dream about trips to such exotic paradises as Jeju, Jeonju and the POSCO factory complex.

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Round two of the playoffs will be another one-off match this time in Korea’s fourth biggest city of Daegu. A city known for beautiful girls, apples and plastic surgery, I’m sure two of them are closely linked!!!

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Daegu FC v Suwon FC (Sat Nov 28th @ 2pm)

With a lot to live up to after Wednesday’s goal fest, Daegu will play host to the final playoff match in the K-League Challenge to see who will take on Busan for the last place in next season’s K-League Classic (as yes that was deliberate). As with the previous round, home advantage guarantees that a draw over 90 mins will be enough to see the hosts prepare to welcome Busan next midweek. Just like with E-land and Suwon, Daegu also possess a prolific striker with the league’s top scorer Johnathon on their books. With 26 goals in 37 starts it’s a record to rival that of Adriano’s from last season when he almost singlehandedly drove Daejeon to the Challenge title.  Johnathon was recently linked with a move to the Middle East but he has quashed those rumors and has pledged his future to Daegu, of course we’ll see how that holds up if they fail to make it through the playoffs.

Johnathon - Daegu FC
Johnathon – Daegu FC

Daegu though are far from a one-man team and have several players capable of both creating and taking chances. Brazilian-Palestinian Elder is a player who has the talent to make an impact in this match. He has 10 goals (in 21 starts) to his name this season and while not quite as prolific as his teammate it’s still a decent return on his first season. As mentioned in my Round 1 preview Japa and Sisi are two or Suwon’s main threats and although E-land tried to contain them as much as possible Japa was still able to come up with a moment of class when he cleverly turned home a shot from the middle of the box to level the scoring at 1-1. If allowed the time and space again he will punish Daegu for sure.

Japa scoring against Seoul E-land
Japa scoring against Seoul E-land

Daegu come into this match with a pretty abysmal home record against Suwon this season, losing both matches and conceding a confidence-sapping six goals in the process. They did however stem the flow of poor results in the final match where they defeated Suwon 2-0 on their own turf. That 2-0 victory was only just over a month ago and will still be fresh in both team’s mind which could just give the hosts a slight edge. Daegu also have the added luxury of having had a week to rest and prepare for the match unlike Suwon who must be a tad drained after the emotional roller coaster of Wednesday night. They at least know they won’t have to play for more than 90 mins so maybe one last motivational talk from Cho Deok Je might just be enough to get them over the line.

This match is another tough one to call  just like Wednesday was, here’s hoping we get another fantastic goal-laden contest. The prize at the end of the game is in the shape of a two-leg match against a a Busan team that look devoid of both confidence and imagination at the moment. Could we have a repeat of the Gwangju miracle?

K-League Challenge Play-off Round 1 Preview

K-League Challenge

Tonight sees the first of four play-off matches that will decide who will join Sangju in making up the twelve team K-League Classic next season. The system, like many things in Korean football, seems to be more complex than it needs to be. There are four teams in the mix and it looks a little bit like this. Tonight Seoul E-land (Challenge 4th placed) will travel to Suwon (Challenge 3rd placed) where they play each other in a one-off 90 min match to see who has the honour of travelling to meet Daegu (Challenge 2nd placed) in another one-off match. The winner of this will then play Busan (Classic 11th placed) in a two-leg affair to decide who will be in the Classic come the start of the 2016 season. Confused? Don’t worry it’ll make less sense when you discover that E-land have to win tonight to progress as a draw will benefit home team Suwon, there will be no extra-time and penalties.  

So with that made as clear as the convoluted Bailey’s based cocktail I was drinking on Saturday night let’s move on to the preview for tonight’s match.

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Suwon FC v Seoul E-land (Suwon, Wed Nov 25th 19:00)

The first play-off match  sees two relatively virginal teams take to the pitch, Suwon have only been in Korea’s second tier for two years while as everyone in Korea knows this is E-land’s inaugural season as a football club. For both clubs to reach the play-offs so soon in such a short span in the league is quite a feat. Other names such as Gyeongnam and Gangwon were probably considered more likely to feature but then again both have had horrendous seasons. Much of Suwon and E-land’s success this season has been built on the goal scoring prowess of their main strikers, Suwon have Japa with 19 goals while E-land have Joo Min Kyu with 23. At one point in the season it looked like there was no stopping Joo as he seemed to be scoring every time he touched the ball but a lull in the second half of the season has curbed both his goal tally and the calls for a spot in the National Team.

Above I mentioned that a draw would be enough for Suwon to make it through to the weekend face-off with Daegu, but then again in the four matches they have contested this season both teams have won twice apiece  so on that record it shouldn’t be an issue tonight I guess. E-land took the first two scalps including a resounding 5-1 victory away in Suwon followed by a straightforward 2-0 home win. Since then though Suwon have shone with two victories, the most recent being revenge for that 5-1 defeat as they ran out easy 4-1 winners in Jamsil’s Olympic Stadium. On paper it looks like Suwon have the momentum but we all know that can all so often go out the window in one-off matches with such importance as this one.

Undoubtedly all eyes will be on the two men mentioned above but it could be two support acts that could separate the teams and hold the key to victory. E-land’s Brazilian striker Tarabai, a bit of a late starter you could say, has recently taken on the responsibility for the goals during Joo’s lapse in form. He is currently fifth top scorer with 17 goals which given he has only made 28 starts is a pretty sweet return.  If E-land can get both their top strikers firing they could prove too much for Suwon to handle. For Suwon though they have the talents of Spanish midfielder SiSi to drive them towards victory and the holy grail of a spot at the top table. Many questioned why the little Spaniard had left the relative comfort and safety of his homeland to take up the challenge of adapting to Korean football, some even went as far as to say he had maybe pulled a “Robinho” and signed for the wrong Suwon team. He quickly put the doubters wrong and has gone about proving himself on the pitch. I recently watched him play in a rather boring 0-0 at Bucheon and although there wasn’t a whole lot of skill on show that day he was by far the standout player. If he is allowed the space to play he will cause E-land problems.

It is not an easy one to call, and if the previous meetings are anything to go by it will be an enthralling encounter. Which ever team wins will go that one step closer to giving the avid followers of the K-League another local derby next year. All that remains to be seen is whether it might be a Seoul derby or a Suwon one.

 

 

Korean Ground Hopping Week 1

It started in Suwon and ended in Tancheon, delivered fifteen goals, three penalties, one thrashing and a ridiculous away support. Yip it was the week that was last week. I set out to attend as many games as I could in a week and in a journey that took in pretty much three of the four ends of the Seoul subway system I managed to see six matches in total, or five and a half if I’m honest about The Supermatch.

So where else to begin than that one at Suwon.

 

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Suwon 5 Seoul 1 (April 18th 2015)

I made the journey down to Suwon pretty early on the Saturday morning, more full of the previous night’s whisky than hope. Seoul had been poor up until this one but then they had been in the same boat this time last year too and they managed to win 1-0 thanks to an Escudero goal, by about 4:15 most Seoul fans must have been wishing they could see the Japanese just one more time. The big news at kick-off was that Park Chu Young hadn’t made the starting lineup but Molina was included and this gave some hope to the sea of red and black. It didn’t take long for that hope to seem as distant as any chance Seoul have of winning the league this year. A pretty harmless ball into the box was nodded down by the hugely impressive Chong Tae Se and it was scrambled over the line by Lee Sang Ho for 1-0 Suwon. You could already sense it was going to be one of those matches and even though Molina leveled the scoreline on half-time with a trademark free-kick it didn’t do much to ease the negative atmosphere, though in fairness that might just have been me. The second half was barely 10 mins old and it was 3-1 Suwon after two quick goals in succession, with the third a cracking but defensible header from a Suwon corner. At this point I left in search of a more painless way to finish my day and so missed an impressive Chong Tae Se double to end the rout and confirm Suwon’s bragging rights for the next few months. It may have finished 5-1 but to be honest it could have been any number and Choi has his work cut out for him this season to stop this going down as one of the worst in recent memory.

 

Next up was a trip to the end of line 3 and a K-League Challenge adventure.

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Goyang Hi 0 Daegu 2 (April 20th 2015)

This match had the honour of being my first Challenge match in Goyang Stadium (I attended an Asian Games match there last year) and the first live stadium podcast by the 48 Shades of Football podcast. It was a long trip from my home to the ground but it is a pretty good area once you step off the Daewha platform. I arrived earlier than anyone else so found a CU outside the station and decided to nurse a cold Cass until the boys arrived. Once we had re-grouped we headed in to the stadium a tad early which resulted in us being the only people there apart from the players themselves. Being presented with an empty stadium throws up more problems than you think but we eventually settled on a spot near the halfway line and got ready for a night of football thrills and podcast puns. The first half finished pretty much an even match with the hosts perhaps just shading it. This was to change in the second half when Daegu seemed to sense Goyang “there for the taking” and threw men forward. They were rewarded on the 75th minute when the free -scoring Johnathon fired in a free-kick which looked like it could have been stopped by either the wall or the keeper. Goyang tried to hit back but Daegu kept them mostly on the backfoot and it was no real surprise when they doubled their lead, this one a cracking turn and shot in the box by No Byung Jun. The podcast continued and as the match finished up we sought solace in a gazebo to finish off both the night’s recording and extra beers. It was a good trip up to the outskirts and even though the return journey is a tad long involving running to make last minute transfers it’s definitely a place I’ll be returning to in the future.

After watching the best both Korean leagues had to offer the next stop was the dizzy heights of the Asian Champions league and two games in two nights.

First up on the Tuesday it was the visit of the free-spending millionaires of Evergrande.

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Seoul 0 Guangzhou Evergrande 0 (April 21st 2015)

So after watching Seoul falter and fail against Suwon a mere three days earlier I dragged myself along to the Seoul World Cup Stadium to see them take on undoubtedly the biggest spenders in Asian football. Evergrande spent an obscene amount of money in the close season in an attempt to win back the ACL crown they so meekly lost last year, so far it hasn’t exactly been a roaring success. The news prior to kick-off was that Cha Du Ri was injured and with Park Chu Young ineligible Seoul’s task looked near impossible. Upon entering the stadium the Seoul fans were met with a wall of red facing them as Evergrande seemed to have round up everybody they could find and stuffed them into a red top. It was an impressive sight and was going to to prove to probably be the main talking point of the night. It took a total of 20 minutes for all the away fans to finally enter, get seated and begin to chant for their team. Its just a shame neither team had brought their shooting boots with them as not for the first time this year in the ACL we were served up with a rather pedestrian 0-0 draw. Both teams probably had chances to win the match but in truth neither team really needed to secure the three points with both perhaps confident that results in the final group match will ensure progress to the last 16.

 

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Seongnam 2 Buriram 1 (April 22nd 2015)

Much had been made of the first match between the two teams where Seongnam had put in a defensive display that the 3 Stooges would have been too embarrassed to put their name to. Seongnam had since then gone on an unbeaten run in the ACL with a home victory over Gamba followed by 4 pts from the Guangzhou R&F double-header. Seongnam had obviously disappointed themselves in the match in Thailand and even the marketing for the match referenced notions of ‘Revenge’.

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Seongnam started the match brightly much like they had done against Gamba and pressed Buriram high up the pitch while also containing them well the odd time they managed to attack. There was just 30 mins on the clock when a fairly harmless looking Kim Do Heon shot struck an arm and the referee pointed at the spot. The captain, having won the penalty, took it himself and calmly slotted it home for 1-0. Seongnam kept pushing forward and after just 10 mins were rewarded with a second, Nam Jun Jae getting up to head a Kim Do Heon free-kick past the flailing keeper and it was 2-0. Buriram pulled one back in the second half and after that the game kind of petered out. Seongnam hung on to record the victory that secured them a spot in the last 16 and with it making them the first “Citizens” club to progress so far. On their performance so far in the group matches and with ‘Fortress Tancheon’ earning it’s name you wouldn’t put it past them to take their run a little further.

After the ACL it was back to business and the ‘bread and butter’ of the K-League. First up was a trip down to Incheon and then finally a return to Tancheon to top of a week of football.

Incheon 1 Pohang 1 (April 25th 2015)

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Incheon is one of my favourite stadiums to go in Korea to watch football. The stands are built right on the pitch and it gives you a feel similar to those back home although a little emptier than I was accustomed to. This match had the potential to be a cracker, Pohang had rediscovered their form at last and Incheon are never particularly easy to beat at home. The first half was one of the best 45 mins of football I’ve seen in the K-League this season. Both teams started brightly with Incheon looking especially up for it. they had the ball in the back of the net in the first 10 mins but it was chopped off for offside much to the dismay of the Incheon fans around me. Next up it was Pohang’s turn to first elate then deflate their fans as they won a rather ‘soft’ penalty only for Tiago Alves to blast it over the bar. It was the kind of penalty that made Roberto Baggio’s effort at USA 90 seem close. This got Incheon firing again and within minutes they were 1-0 up, Kim Jin Hwan firing home for the hosts. Initially after the goal Pohang looked shell-shocked but they dragged themselves back into the match and Tiago went some way to make up for his earlier howler but cracking a shot from the edge of the box in off the far post and it was 1-1. We went into HT level and as I said earlier it was a cracking first half. But if the first half was good the second was abysmal. It was the kind of half that you wished you had listened to the missus when she asked you to join her for an afternoon of Hugh Grant movies. There was nothing much to talk about and both sets of fans left neither happy nor sad come the final whistle. I made my way back to Dowon Station and the generally long ride and inevitable having to stand up that makes this a depressing return home from any match.

 Seongnam 1 Jeju 1 (April 26th 2015)

Photo by @chiefinkorea
Photo by @chiefinkorea

 

And so it was that Tanchwon would be the final venue for the week long football extravaganza. Seongnam had been buoyed by the last 16 achievement and were of course going to ‘milk it’ as much as possible. This match had been marketed as ‘picnic day’, ‘celebration of last 16 day’ and a few other names too and it had to be said upon arrival there was more of a carnival atmosphere outside than usual. We had Nanta style drummers, Ball Beer girls and a few other events all happening outside the main ticket office. There was also a rather comical show inside involving a foreigner trying to squeeze into a Korean 110 sized Seongnam home shirt, of no wait that was me. Thankfully it didn’t rip and I was able to hand it back to the retailer albeit a rather more sheepish than when I first confidently asked to try it on. Onto to the match itself and it was a reasonably entertaining affair. Jeju are a good team and Seongnam are organized. They set out their stall to contain and counter whenever possible, its a tactic that works well and I think one that we will see throughout the rest of the season. It was Jeju who led at half-time through a sweet edge of the box strike from Ricardo Lopes. It was probably a deserved lead and it did take a little of the shine of the pre-match events. The biggest surprise before the match was that captain Kim Do Heon hadn’t made the starting eleven though I guess after his midweek exertions it shouldn’t have been so surprising. He was brought on at half-time in a bid to both tighten up and also spur on the Seongnam midfield. He was involved in most of their forward play and after Ricardo (I think) was tripped in the box he stepped up and yet again confidently nestled the ball in the back of the net. He has shown in glimpses so far this season why Tony Mowbray took him to WBA and  think if he continues to perform the way he has Seongnam will be safe from any relegation battle. The game finished 1-1 and it was soon time to head back along three subway lines to the confines of The Wolfhound in Itaewon and a couple more cold OBs.

So there it is 6 games in 9 days and although it took several subway lines, several hangovers and definitely too many beers it was a worthwhile week and one I’m sure my liver is just itching for me to repeat again next month.  Next up for me is a midweek FA Cup match at Seoul, followed by the Seoul v Seongnam match and then a flight to Osaka to take in Seongnam’s final ACL group match.