South Korean Football Round-up: Suwon/Pohang, South Korea MNT


Photo credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac/Zimbio

Suwon Bluewings 1-1 Pohang Steelers

Pohang Steelers gave up top spot in the K-League, drawing 1-1 at Suwon Bluewings.

In a first half that saw some smart link-up play on the wings from both sides, Gwon produced an early save from the home keeper with a low left-footed drive. The visitors then came close again with a powerful right-footed shot by Won-jin Jung from a loose ball just outside the box that went narrowly wide. Suwon responded with a header wide by Damjanovic. The first half flowed nicely with both sides making chances and the visitors’ Seung-min Song might have done better on the half hour when he planted a weak header straight at the home goalkeeper.

Ki-je Lee was looking lively hugging the left touchline for Suwon and his link up play with Ki-hun Yeom produced the best chance of the half in stoppage time as the latter’s cross from the left was wastefully headed off-target by Jong-woo Kim.

Pohang took the lead in the fifty-seventh minute as Kim Gwang-seok found space far too easily to head in a corner from the right from six yards. It was a brutally simple opening goal in a game that had seen some smart build-up play from both sides.

Suwon rallied after going behind and went on to have the better of the rest of the game. Second half substitute Waguininho was involved in everything and showed some nice touches to create good positions for his side and to draw fouls in dangerous areas. However, it seemed that Pohang would hold firm. They tackled aggressively but also relied on the composure of Connor Chapman to close down attacks and try to maintain possession.

All Pohang’s defensive hard work was undone in the eighty-eighth minute as they failed to deal with a high ball to the edge of the box. Suwon twice won aerial challenges and, as Pohang claimed for a foul that was never going to be given, Waguininho reacted first and kept his composure to steer the ball into the net with his right foot. It was a goal that both the team and the player deserved for their second-half efforts.

Suwon now went for the three points and showed great urgency in getting the ball forward. Pohang’s composure suddenly seemed completely lost, but the home side were unable to take advantage of the good positions they moved the ball into around the visitors’ penalty area.

The final whistle saw players from both sides slumped on the grass, the closing stages having taken their toll. Both sides will feel an element of frustration; Pohang at letting two points slip away late on and Suwon at not making the most of their play in the closing stages.

For all that Suwon may reflect on missed opportunities, it has been a good week’s work for Bluewings. They travelled to China to face Shanghai Shenhua in midweek and emerged with a vital 2-0 victory to leave them in second place in Group H and well placed to qualify from the group. Following on from last weekend’s victory over Daegu, Suwon will be looking ahead with optimism as their season gathers pace.



Pohang were replaced at the top of the table by Gyeongnam, who continued their perfect start to the season by winning 3-1 at Jeonnam Dragons on Saturday. The visitors were awarded an early penalty, only to see the decision overturned after VAR consultation. They didn’t let this put them off their stride, however, and took the lead before half time through a fine left-footed finish from former Flamengo forward Negueba. Kim Hyo-gi doubled Gyeongnam’s advantage in first half stoppage time. Jeonnam responded with a scrappy Lee Kyung-ryul goal after Gyeongnam failed to deal with a free kick from the left, but Marcao’s penalty on the hour made the points safe. The home side pushed to get back into the game but were twice denied by spectacular saves from visiting goalkeeper, Song Jeong-hyeon.

Gangwon go into the international break in second after Saturday’s 2-1 home win over ten-man Sangju Sangmu. Diego Mauricio got both goals for Gangwon, including one from the spot. The penalty award seemed harsh as attacker Deric and the visiting goalkeeper challenged for an aerial ball. Mauricio’s second was a sweeping right-footed half-volley. The visitors could only reply with a penalty of their own from Joo Min-kyu.

Jeonbuk bounced back from a midweek AFC Champions League defeat at Tianjin Quanjian. Their 2-1 win at home to FC Seoul leaves the Jeonju side in fourth place in the K-League. Despite their midweek defeat, Jeonbuk remain top of Champions League Group E and are well placed to qualify for the last sixteen.

Daegu moved off the bottom as a 0-0 draw at Incheon United saw them register their first point of the season. While this is a welcome point, Daegu do remain one of two sides yet to find the net in the K-League 2018.

The other goalless side, Ulsan, replaced Daegu in last spot by losing 1-0 at home to Jeju on Sunday. This followed Ulsan’s home defeat to Shanghai SIPG which leaves the Korean side in second place in Group F. However, they are now level on points with Melbourne Victory after Victory grabbed a late winner against Kawasaki Frontale on Tuesday night. Ulsan face Victory in Korea in the next round of matches and a failure to arrest this slump in form will put Ulsan’s progress in the competition in jeopardy.

Jeju have Champions League worries of their own. Back-to-back defeats to group leaders Guangzhou Evergrande have left them bottom of Group G with two rounds of fixtures left, the first of which sees Jeju head to Japan to face third-placed Cerezo Osaka. Thai champions Buriram United are second due to their head-to-head record with the Japanese side.

National Team

The K-League now takes a breather for the international break. South Korea will face Northern Ireland at Windsor Park and also travel to Chorzow to take on Poland as part of their preparations for Russia. Ahead of these friendlies the KFA have announced that Francisco Garcia Hernandez, formerly a Real Madrid midfielder and reserve team coach, will join the national team set-up as an analyst.

Four further friendlies for the South Korean national team have been announced for May and June. Honduras and Bosnia Herzegovina will travel to Korea before matches against Bolivia and Senegal, which will be played in Austria. South Korea will face Sweden, Mexico, and Germany in the group stage of the World Cup.

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