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AFC Report- FC Seoul vs. Guanzhou Evergrande


It was a midweek AFC Champion's league match and Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande came to visit.   Hoping to avenge an earlier loss in February against Guangzhou and erase Saturday's horrific trouncing by Suwon, Seoul set out to take a big step towards qualifying for the knockout rounds of the AFC.

With Cha Du Ri's injury, coach Choi Soo Young set out with a 5-3-2 formation and Kim Chi Woo came in as  a left-wing back.  Go Gwang Min slid over from the left to slot in as right-wing back and Lee Sang Hyeop came into midfield in place of captain Go Myeong Jin.  Was this change in formation a response to Saturday's result or the desire to blunt Guangzhou's attack?

For a midweek game, there was a quite a good crowd, but many of these were Guanzhou supporters. This was the similar for the first leg of the AFC final between these two teams in 2013.  Unfortunately, the game ended in a 0-0 draw with Seoul really not doing much until the final ten minutes, which seems to be a recurring theme with this team the last two years.

In the first half, Seoul did not really do much and when they did have the ball, they were too slow and ponderous.  For example, in the 27th minute, Kim Chi Woo got stuck on the side line between two Guangzhou defenders and lost the ball trying to pass short to another player.  There seemed to be a complete lack of dynamism.

In the 28th minute, there was a great exchange between Go Yo Han and Yun Il Lok, but Lok's touch was too much and the end result was a corner.  Besides that, the first half was a drab affair with both sides trying to not make a mistake.  Again, this seems to be Choi Soo Young's game plan.  It is an ethos that the man lives by, but in this case, it was probably for the best.

I feel that being a coach is a thankless position.  If a coach decides to attack and lose, the coach is labeled as being naive (ex: Arsene Wenger).  If a coach decides to stay compact and play on the counterattack, then that coach is accused of parking the bus (ex: too many to think of, maybe Jose Mourinho).  If a coach decides to play long ball or towards the averages that come with a dead ball situation, then that coach is labeled as being unadventurous and not living up to the ideals of "the beautiful game" (ex: Sam Allardyce, Tony Pulis).

My point is that I often bitch and moan about Choi's tactics, but what the hell do I know.  Maybe being conservative was a good choice for tonight's game.  Looking at the table, Seoul is second place and if they win on Children's Day in Japan then they will qualify for the second round, which is what the goal obviously was.

Anyways, the second half was a bit better, especially the end.  Seoul came out and played a bit better in the beginning of the half.  Kim Jin Gyu had a great free kick saved by the Guangzhou keeper in the 10th minute and Yun Il Lok had a sweet nutmeg in the 20th minute.

The chance of the game was in the 27th minute and it fell to Ricardo Goulart.  A Guangzhou player crossed it and Goulart back-heeled it towards the goal, only for Go Gwang Min to clear it off the goal line.  Goulart's skill and chance is the embodiment of what Seoul have been missing ever since Dejan's departure.  No Seoul player at this moment would have skill to pull that off, with exception of Molina, and most would not even try it.

Seoul then went back into its shell.  They really did not do much until the last ten minutes.  In the 37th minute, Osmar had a good cross from the left for a scoring opportunity.  Also, a minute later a Seoul player (maybe Yun Ju Tae) did great work dribbling past his man on the left to get into the box. In the 42nd minute, Kim Jin Gyu fouled a Guangzhou player on the edge of the box, but the free kick was straight into the wall and the game ended.

So to sum up, Seoul are still in their group, but they need to win against Kashima.  It was another Choi specialty- a middling game that did not really come alive till the end.  Seoul need several players, but a striker with flair like Ricardo Goulart would be nice.   Finally, just like last year, it is going to be another long year.

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