A Trip To Suwon – A Birthday, A Tenor and Some VAR

 

A Trip to Suwon : A Birthday, A Tenor and Some VAR

 

When faced with the task of getting the missus a birthday present that she’ll remember for a year some men think of bling, pefumes or hopping on a plane. For me I plumped for a bus ride down to Suwon and taking her to Suwon Bluewings v Ulsan Hyundai….and they say that romance is dead. In fairness she is something of a closet Bluewings fan and there really are only so many Seongnam matches that you can put someone through before they crack. And so it was then that we gave an afternoon of eating desserts in a coffee shop the cold shoulder and headed off to watch the ‘top six’ clash.

 

 

The day started, as so many trips to Suwon do, with a mad dash to Sadang Stn to get the Express bus to The Big Bird. You’d think that after years of making the same journey I would have stopped being surprised by the time it takes to navigate the sprawling underground collection of pop-up stores and hiking ajossis that is Sadang. The bus was caught on time and obviously the bus driver was a Bluewings fan as he drove like a man with a promise of beer and the game on TV in a local Hof. Some 30 mins later we successfully secured tickets and a pack of Cass and were plumped outside The Big Bird Cafe soaking up some October sun and waiting on the match.

The Big Bird Cafe….the highlight of any Suwon trip!

There are fewer better stadiums to be in Korea than The Big Bird and when you throw in some autumn sunshine it really is a fantastic place to watch football. We were a little late in getting in to the ground due to a new ‘bag-search’ being implemented, I can only imagine that this is due to the recent bottle-throwing exploits of some disgruntled Suwon-istas at the recent ‘Supermatch’. One of the best things about the K-League is the ability to have a cold beer while watching your heroes, or villains, and it will be a shame if this is affected going forward.

The game started with both teams looking like they were “up for it” and chances were created at both ends as both teams had so much to play for. Suwon knowing that rivals Seoul were snapping at their ankles for the last ACL place and Ulsan still with a hopeful eye on league leaders Jeonbuk. The match is also, almost certainly, going to be the FA Cup final clash, Ulsan already booking their place after defeating Mokpo and Suwon facing Busan in the other semi-final. The game was being played at a pretty fast pace and there was a feeling among the fans that it was more a case of when not if the deadlock would be broken. It didn’t take long for those feelings to become reality and it would be a rather unfortunate Lee Young Jae who would open the scoring as he slid the ball into his own net after a harmless Park Ki Dong shot ricocheted off the foot of Richard and into his path. As if the blunder wasn’t bad enough he then had to endure ‘OG’ next to his name on both the giant screens for the rest of the 90 mins.

The first half also provided me with my first live experience of VAR as play was halted just before half-time although quite why it was paused escaped me as the action had taken place on the far touchline in the middle of the pitch. It seemed needlessly unnecessary to me, although it would be put to proper use later.

It was a beautiful day down in Suwon.

After a pretty decent first half in the sun things took a little turn for the surreal as Britain’s Got Talent winner and tenor Paul Potts graced the field to give us a rousing rendition of Nessun Dorma. He had actually taken the ceremonial pre-match kick-off which I missed due to having to queue to heat a rather hastily purchased hot-dog. He came out dressed in a Suwon shirt and preceded to give us a rather rehearsed “Suwon Fighting!” before breaking into song. To be fair the boy can carry a tune and although he didn’t exactly have the crowd locking arms and humming along it was a powerful rendition. After singing he toured the pitch (well the Suwon ends) and kicked several match ball into the crowd before exiting the field and no doubt necking a cold Cass on the way back to his hotel.

Paul Potts makes an appearance at HT

The second half started much like the first with both teams active but there was a definite spring in the Bluewings step, they are undoubtedly a different team with Johnathan back and they were now playing with a belief and an air of confidence that has been missing of late.  Speaking of “missing” there was of course no starting slot for Matt Jurman as the big Aussie was serving a two game ban for making a “gesture” towards Jeonbuk’s Lee Dong Gook in a previous match. At the start of the 2nd half the Bluewings “ultras” unveiled a message of support for him which roughly read “Matthew we are with you”. He has become something of a cult hero this year and will unfortunately miss ‘The Supermatch’ before returning to the starting lineup again.

The Suwon fans with a message of support for Matt Jurman

As both teams continued to search for the goal that would change their afternoon’s fortunes the ball broke to Johnathan who sprinted into the box and just as he was getting ready to pull the trigger was brought down. It looked a clear-cut penalty from where I was sitting, exactly level with the tackle, but it was waved away by the referee who implied the Ulsan defender got the ball. That call was directed to VAR and after a brief review the penalty was awarded and duly converted by the talismanic Johnathan who got a yellow card for his shirtless celebrations, I personally would have given him a yellow for flapping around with his top like Mario Ballotelli with a training bib.

Time for another VAR interruption!

With Suwon 2-0 up they were able to sit back and soak up the Ulsan pressure and even though Shin Hwa Yong was called into action a couple of times it was a comfortable victory in the end for the hosts. Things could have been different of course had Daniel Subotic not hit the post when clean through on Shin and he really should have burst the net instead of trying to place it in the corner. There was still time for Richard to flash a free header past the post as the visitors began to run out of ideas and the Bluewings fans erupted into a rather ironic chant of “Goodbye” (a play I imagine on the famous Ulsan chant).

 

The Suwon players take the salutes of their fans.

After the full time whistle we walked round to the North stand and watched as the Bluewings fans broke into a celebratory rendition of Despatchio to hail their heroes and a huge 3pts. For us all that remained was the bus back to Seoul and for me to start planning which game to take the wife to next year….

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The full highlights can be found here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbQRs0bROaU&t=121s

 

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K-League Classic 2017 Round 26 Previews – Sunday Fixtures

K-League Classic 2017 Round 26 Previews – Sunday Fixtures

Yesterday was ‘Derby Day’ in the K-League as we had the Jeolla Derby and The Supermatch with the former finishing in a 1-1 draw. The Supermatch was played in front of almost 30,000 at Suwon World Cup Stadium with a rather embarrassing Kwak Kwang Seon OG giving FC Seoul the victory. There was also a much-needed 2-1 victory for Incheon United as they won away at Sangju in a result which pulls the Army team right into the relegation fight

Moving onto today’s action below are brief previews and predictions for this Sunday’s clashes. 

Gwangju vs. Daegu @ 7pm

The first game of the day is a huge  relegation battle between bottom side Gwangju and tenth placed Daegu in what will undoubtedly be a tense affair. Gwangju crashed out of the cup mid-week after taking Suwon Bluewings to extra time and will certainly be less rested than their opponents.  In the league they’ve been incredibly poor and have only managed the one win in the last five or so. They signed Irishman Niall McGinn to help keep them in the Classic but he hasn’t featured since their victory over Jeonnam. They will need to find inspiration and soon if they are to avoid facing E-Land and Daejeon next year.  Daegu have been playing reasonably well of late and have picked up seven points from their last four games including a hard-fought draw against FC Seoul last weekend. They are a good team on their day but tend to keep those performances for teams with a bigger reputation, it will be interesting to see if they can raise their game for the trip to Gwangju and indeed they lost here earlier in the season.

Prediction:  Score Draw : Gwangju 1 – Daegu 1

Ulsan Hyundai vs. Pohang Steelers @ 7pm

The second game of the day is also the highlight game as Ulsan welcome Pohang to town in what is, I guess, a Southern Derby. Ulsan are performing better this year than last and are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup after knocking Sangju out midweek. In the league they are also looking strong and inflicted defeat on leaders Jeonbuk in the Hyundai Derby last weekend, Lee Jong Ho scoring against his old team. They have a good squad and unlike other teams in The Classic they do tend to play as a unit more than relying on individuals. As commented many times on here Pohang are all over the place right now and  have only one win in six which was a victory over Gwangju. They drew 1-1 at home with Jeonnam last weekend and look a team that is lacking confidence and belief. They also lost Kim Seung Dae to a rather ridiculous five match suspension after he was red carded against Jeonnam. It’s safe to day nothing is going right for The Steelmen right now. Ulsan have both the clashes so far this season and on current form a repeat would certainly seem the logical bet today.

 

Prediction:  Home win : Ulsan 2 – Pohang 1

Gangwon vs. Jeju United @ 7pm

The final game on Sunday comes from the the Ski jumping slopes of Gangwon as 6th place hosts 4th in a clash which might just go some way towards the final ACL spots.  Gangwon finally put an end to their losing run as they defeated the much maligned Sangju (I feel everyone has beaten Sangju in the last month) and as a result they still occupy a place in The Championship Group. They are so inconsistent this year that you wouldn’t put money on them still being there come the split.  Jeju have found form again and have now won three of their last four games although were unable to beat a dogged Incheon last weekend. They are still sniffing around the ACL spots and after yesterday’s results might just feel they have a chance at the title yet. Both these clashes have ended in 2-1 victories for Gangwon, could today be Jeju’s turn for revenge?

Prediction:  Score Draw : Gangwon 1 – Jeju 1

K-League Classic 2017 Round 23 Previews (Saturday Fixtures)

The K-League Classic 2017 Round 23 Predictions – Saturday Fixtures

It’s been a crazy busy time in the K-League’s top division as we’ve seen midweek games for the last couple of weeks. This sudden flurry of fixtures has seen a slight gap open up at the top of the table as Jeonbuk, Ulsan and Suwon start to put some light between themselves and the chasing pack. We’ve also seen a resurgent Seoul team claw themselves back into the ACL contest just as we’ve seen Pohang free-fall down the table and into the relegation group.

This weekend sees a final round of fixtures before we take a short break in proceedings so moving onto the days action, below are some brief previews and predictions for this Saturdays upcoming clashes.

Gwangju vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 7pm

The first game of the weekend is between two relegation group teams, as bottom side Gwangju welcome Jeonnam to town. Gwangju have been having a nightmare of late and have now lost three games straight and are in the kind of trouble that most people expected them to be in the last two seasons. In order to bail them out they signed ex-Aberdeen and Celtic player Niall McGinn. He hasn’t really had any time to make an impact but he’ll need to be at his best soon if he is to drag them to safety. It’s not all rosy at Jeonnam either as they haven’t been doing much better with a solitary win in their last five games. They were easily beaten 4-1 at Suwon midweek as they were cut apart time and time again by the pace and guile of Yeom Ki Hun and Johnathan. Jeonnam have won the previous two clashes between the teams and on paper will have the edge, although a huge factor though will be if Jair is fit as he missed out against The Bluewings and they severely need him back.

Prediction: Away Win : Gwangju  1 – Jeonanm 2

Ulsan Hyundai vs. Incheon United @ 7pm

The second game of the day is a tussle between two teams having hugely contrasting seasons as high flying Ulsan and struggling Incheon United clash. Ulsan have won their last three games on the bounce although they haven’t exactly been against the toughest of opposition. Their last defeat was to league leaders Jeonbuk when they were royally spanked 4-0. Even though they sit 2nd in the table they have a goal difference of -1 which goes to prove that they are not exactly solid at the back, or consistent.  Incheon come into the match after being hammered during the week as they fell 5-1 to FC Seoul, yet again. Reports from that match suggest that Incheon were pretty horrendous at the back throughout and will need to tighten up against a team like Ulsan if they are to avoid another heavy defeat.  These sides played at the end of last month when Incheon ran out 2-1 winners, a repeat for them today would tend to be unlikely.

Prediction: Home Win : Ulsan 2 – Incheon 0

Jeju United vs. Pohang Steelers @ 7pm

The final game on Saturday comes from Jeju and is between Jeju United and Pohang Steelers in a match which only a few months ago was a table topping clash. Jeju still seem to be struggling to find any real consistency although they have won two of their last three games but this was a team that at the start of the season looked real title contenders. They bounced back from losing at home to Seoul by defeating Sangju 3-0 away, Yoon Bitgaram netting his first goal since returning from China. Pohang, on the other hand have been dismal of late and have now lost their last three games, including a shock 3-0 defeat to 10th place Daegu midweek. They also brought back a former hero in the shape of Kim Seung Dae but you get the feeling it will take more than that to hoist them back up the table. Both teams have won their home clashes this season, could we see the same again?

Prediction: Home Win: Jeju 2 – Pohang 1

K-League Classic 2017 Round 16 Previews – Sunday Fixtures

K League Classic 2017 Round 16 Previews (Sunday June 25th)

Yesterday’s matches produced a couple of hugely unpredictable results as we had victory for Incheon as they earned a huge 3 points down in Ulsan and a pretty comprehensive thumping for Pohang as they left Jeju on the end of a 3-0 battering. It also seen Jeonnam run out 2-1 victors in their match against Gwangju, Jair converting a penalty to secure the points. 

Moving onto the day’s action and it’s time for some brief previews and predictions for this Sunday’s clashes.

Suwon Bluewings vs. Gangwon @ 6pm

The first game on Sunday evening is between Suwon Bluewings and Gangwon as 6th welcomes 5th to town in a match that will really test Gangwon’s credentials as a serious ACL contender. The Bluewings have been erratic of late having only won three from five losing to rivals Jeonbuk and more importantly Seoul in recent weeks. They have struggled to find any consistency and main striker Johnathon really needs to start playing less for himself and more for the team if they are to mount a title challenge. Gangwon, who had looked deadly of late, crashed to a crushing 4-1 defeat to Jeonbuk during the week which brought their five game winning run to a shuddering halt. They spent a lot of money during the close season and it will be interesting to see what they do now the summer transfer window has opened. Suwon won 2-1 earlier in the season but that was away from home where their best form seems to be.

Prediction:  Score Draw : Bluewings 1 –  Gangwon 1

FC Seoul vs. Sangju Sangmu @ 7pm

The second game of the day is a mid-table clash between FC Seoul and Sangju Sangmu in a match which has a draw written all over it before I even start to preview it. Seoul are a hard side to watch this year, lacking creativity and are really struggling to score so far this season. In fact their return of 18 goals in 15 games is really poor for a team aiming to retain their title. They let Adriano and Takahagi go in the close season and while ha Dae Sung’s return will make up for the latter there has been no sign of a replacement for Adriano. It is something they need to sort out and sort out fast. Sangju, after last season’s highs, are back looking like the army teams of old and are winless in seven games now. Their form this year is strange given that, on paper, their team should be stronger than last year’s. Seoul have had the better of their military counterparts for a long time now and even though they are in their own slump they should have enough to beat them again today.

Prediction:  Home Win : Seoul 1 –  Sangju 0

Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. Daegu @ 7pm

The final game on Saturday is another between two teams at opposite ends of the table as league leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai take on 10th placed Daegu. Jeonbuk have won both of the games since returning from the international break and are beginning to look every bit the league winners having notched up an incredible seven goals in two games. I’m not sure what Choi Kang Hee said or did to Edu but he’s back finding the net again and with the return of Lopez they are looking formidable. They have been the best team in Korea for some time now and if it wasn’t for their points deduction last year they would be going for a record breaking ‘four in a row’ this year. Daegu haven’t really surprised many this year with their league position but they have definitely won some fans with their attacking style of play. In Leo they have a really dangerous striker who will punish you if given any room whatsoever. They’ve drawn their last two matches with a 0-0 draw away to Seoul the most recent. On paper this should be a walkover for Jeonbuk but they might just find it tougher than many think.

Prediction:  Home Win : Jeonbuk 2 – Daegu 1

K-League Classic Round 11 Previews – Sunday Fixtures

Now that the Asian Champions League is all but over for Korea this year it’s time to turn all eyes to the bread and butter of the K-League Classic. Today sees four games featuring all the teams from the midweek ACL matches.

Sangju Sangmu vs. FC Seoul @ 3pm

The first game of the day sees the army team of Sangju Sangmu host FC Seoul in a match which sees two teams lacking somewhat in confidence clash. Sangju have been poor of late losing their last two games and dropping down into the Relegation Group as they currently occupy 8th spot. Seoul have also been poor this year and lack the creative spark in the middle of the pitch needed. They did however beat Urawa Reds in  a ‘dead rubber’ in the ACL during the week but I think fans of both teams would’ve struggled to name more than a handful of players on either team such were the sweeping changes made. There were some epic clashes between the two last year so here’s hoping for another cracker today.

Prediction: Score Draw : Sangju 1 – Seoul 1

Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai @ 3pm

Next up is the first Hyundai Derby of 2017  between Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonnam Hyundai in a match which has slightly more importance this year than last. Ulsan have recently found some decent league form winning three games on the bounce and picking up a confidence booster midweek as they defeated Brisbane in the ACL. Jeonbuk, by contrast, have been rocky of late and  won for the first time in three games last weekend beating Daegu and are currently joint top with early leaders Jeju. It was almost impossible to separate the two teams last year and today could be another close affair.
Prediction:  Score Draw : Ulsan 1 – Jeonbuk 1

Pohang Steelers vs. Jeju United @ 3pm

The third and final 3pm kick off comes from the confines of the POSCO Steelyard as Pohang Steelers welcome league leaders Jeju United to town in what must be the game of the week. Pohang ended a losing run of three games by coming back from two goals behind to beat a beleaguered FC Seoul. Seoul did find themselves down to 10 men in the match but considering they’ve been on the end of many a favourable decision of late they can’t complain too much. Table toppers Jeju were the only K League side to progress from the ACL group stages and have been having a pretty perfect season so far. They look dangerous on all fronts and almost always look in control. They’ve scored a pretty incredible 8 goals in their last two league games beating both Jeonbuk and Sangju easily. Jeju thrashed Pohang twice last year but Pohang are a different team in 2017.

Prediction: Away Win : Pohang 1 – Jeju 2

Jeonnam Dragons vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 5pm

The final Sunday afternoon game is between two mid-table sides as Jeonnam Dragons host Suwon Bluewings in the 5pm kick-off. Jeonnam have bounced back from a nightmare start to 2017 and have won four from the last five in the league and  utterly destroyed  Gwangju last weekend running out 5-0 winners with Jair taking the match ball home with him. The Bluewings have been disappointing in the opening rounds and even though they went on a 3 game winning run they, rather predictably, lost to Ulsan last Saturday. Last year there was a 3-0 thrashing for Suwon sandwiched between two draws, this year it’s too tough to call.

Prediction:  Score Draw : Jeonnam 2 – Suwon 2

K-League Classic 2017 – Round 8 Sunday Fixtures

Due to some heavy commitments there isn’t much time for full previews so below are my score predictions for today’s Super Sunday fixtures.

Jeonbuk to continue their good form in the league.

Away Win : Gwangju 0 – Jeonbuk 1

Jeju had a good result midweek and could just have too much for Bluewings.

Home Win : Jeju 2 – Bluewings 1

Daegu have been performing better than expected and Seoul have been poor.

Score Draw : Daegu 1 – Seoul 1

Both teams have been struggling of late. This has all the potential for a borefest or scorefest.

Away Win : Incheon 1 – Ulsan 2

K-League Classic 2017 Week 6 Previews

 

If there is one thing that we learned form Round 5 it’s that when football sucks it REALLY sucks as we witnessed only two wins last weekend with all four matches on the Saturday finishing with the points shared. The hotly anticipated Seoul/Jeju match in particular did more to increase alcohol sales then any 4 for 10,000W GS promo could never achieve. 

There are only two matches being played on the Saturday this weekend due to the midweek ACL exertions. 

Incheon United vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 3pm

First up on Saturday is a trip to Incheon Football Stadium where Incheon United welcome bottom side Jeonnam Dragons to town in a battle of the ‘winless’. Incheon have lost twice and drawn three times so far this season but have played better than their record would suggest to be honest. They have shown a battling quality when needed but unfortunately have also been suicidal at the back at times. They lost 2-0 down at Pohang last Sunday although they played the whole 2nd half with ten men. Han Suk Jong was sent off in controversial circumstances and that red card has since been rescinded.  Jeonnam  have had an alarmingly poor start to the season losing all of their matches so far, shipping twelve goals in the process. Last weekend they lost in Daegu which could have been so much worse if Incheon hadn’t also lost. Last season Jeonnam were undefeated in this fixture and the head to head says they are pretty much on a par.
Prediction: Draw : Incheon 1 – Jeonnam 1

 

Pohang Steelers vs. Daegu @ 3pm

The second game of the day comes from The Steelyard as a resurgent Pohang Steelers host new boys Daegu. Pohang seem to have have managed to put last year’s horrendous season behind them and have had a pretty sweet start to the season winning three games while being the league’s highest scorers to boot with ten goals in five games. A lot of their success comes down to the goal scoring exploits of Yang Dong Hyun who has hit the net four times already. Daegu have surprised more than a few people this year with their performances so far and are undefeated since the opening game of the season with three draws before their victory over Jeonnam last weekend. They currently occupy 7th spot, only the solitary point adrift of Ulsan in 6th. Pohang won the last four meetings between the teams and in fact have only lost five times in thirty-two matches.
Prediction: Home Win : Pohang 2 – Incheon 1

Quickly on to the Super Sunday and we have Jeonbuk joining the four ACL teams in what should be a fantastic day of football….well unless like me you are at Tancheon!

 

Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. Sangju Sangmu @ 3pm

The first 3 o’clock kick off on Sunday comes from the Jeonju Civil Stadium as Jeonbuk play host to Sangju. Jeonbuk have started the season well and have won three and drawn two of their opening five  games as they bid to reclaim their crown. They have been blessed by some stellar performances from full-back Kim Jin Su who has made the official K-League ‘Team of the Week’ four out of the five so far. He has definitely been the ‘buy of the season’. They drew last week with The Wookie scoring, Kim Jin Su the supplier.  Sangju are replicating their fine 2016 form and are currently sitting pretty in 4th place after going undefeated since losing their opening match. They drew 0-0 at The Big Bird last weekend and definitely have players capable of pulling something special out the bag. Jeonbuk won both home ties last year with an emphatic 4-1 victory towards the end of the season

Prediction: Home Win : Jeonbuk 1 – Sangju 0

Jeju United vs. Gangwon @ 3pm

Next up we travel to the island paradise of Jeju and to Seogwipo, as Jeju United host Gangwon as league leaders take on 8th place. Jeju looked almost unbeatable in the early weeks of the season winning their opening three games also looking impressive in the ACL and it’s unfair to say the wheels have come off but their form of late hasn’t been great. They have drawn their last two league matches albeit against Jeonbuk and Seoul respectively but they lost 3-1 at home to Adelaide in the ACL midweek.  Gangwon haven’t won since the opening game of the season and all that pre-season bluster seems to be blowing up in their face. Last time the teams met was in 2013 with Gangwon winning 3-0 that day, although the head to head is slightly in Jeju’s favour.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeju 2 – Gangwon 1

Suwon Bluewings vs. Gwangju @ 3pm

Our third Super Sunday battle comes from The Big Bird of Suwon World Cup Stadium, where Suwon Bluewings welcome Gwangju. For a team predicted by many to be title contenders The Bluewings have been woeful in the league and are still searching for that elusive first league win. The have drawn four times and lost the other. However their ACL form has been much better with them hammering Hong Kong’s Eastern 5-0 during the week. Gwangju are one of those footballing enigmas, they aren’t great but the aren’t bad either, they are more than capable of pulling off an upset when they are on their game. They came from behind last weekend to snatch a point against Ulsan and might just have enough about to get something in this one too. They drew three times last year with Gwangju winning the fourth clash.

Prediction: Draw : Suwon 1 – Gwangju 1

Ulsan Hyundai vs. FC Seoul @ 3pm

The final game of the day and probably the highlight of the weekend comes from Ulsan as two ACL teams go head to head in the battle of 6th v 5th. Ulsan have had yet another mixed bag of a season, retching from the sublime to the downright ordinary.  They come into the match on the back of a 1-1 league draw at home to Gwangju and a confidence-destroying 1-0 defeat in Thailand in the ACL. With the players at their disposal there is no hiding from the fact they are under performing. Seoul  have also struggled this year and were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Jeju last weekend. They did come back from Australia with all 3pts after defeating WSW 3-2 but even that victory was marred as they conceded two late goals. Even though Dejan scored a brace in the match it was his Brazilian strike partner Maurinho who took all the plaudits as he put in a performance that could and should see him start this one. Seoul had the upper hand over their hosts last season wining twice, with both teams midweek exploits we could see a couple of tired teams on the pitch.
Prediction: Draw : Ulsan 1 – Seoul 1