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Jeonnam Dragons 2-1 Seongnam FC: Recap

(via dragons.co.kr)

Jeonnam win their second in a row to extend Seongnam's winless streak to four games.

Don't look now, but the Dragons have started what we like to call a winning streak. Sure two games in a row isn't really a streak, but last night's 2-1 win over slumping Seongnam makes it three wins in four and is the first such positive streak since April. More importantly we were teased yet again with a more direct approach on offense that allowed the midfielders to shine. Whether or not that will stick around long enough to challenge FC Seoul this Saturday is yet to be seen... but that's an issue for Future Dragons.

On a wet and balmy evening all of 1,460 spectators made their way to Gwangyang Football Stadium to take in some mid-week action. They didn't have to wait long for the Dragons to open their account with an absolute gem from Mislav Oršić finding the back of the net in the 10th minute. Oršić trapped an errant Seongnam clearance roughly 15 yards from the penalty box, took about five steps to his right and wonderfully curled a shot under the crossbar. Seongnam keeper Park Jun-hyuk dove too far to his left and could do absolutely nothing about the ball curling back into the center of goal.

Park Jun-hyuk more than made up for it in the 33rd minute. After the Dragons proved they do indeed remember what playing in the center of the field looks like, Seongnam relaxed slightly on the wings and allowed a lovely cross to be played in to Ristić who's header was destined to sneak inside the far post before Park got fingertips to it. The save kept SFC in the match and prevented the Dragons from taking a stranglehold on the match. The momentum stayed with the visitors with Kim Sung-joon's goal in the 37th minute. Jeonnam captain Bang Dae-jong was absolutely undone by SFC's Nam Jun-jae who put in a low cross to a streaking and utterly unmarked Kim Sung-joon who powered into the back of the net.

To the Dragons credit, they bounced back after the goal and not only put some pressure on the SFC defense, but also had a decent goal scoring opportunity from Ahn Yong-woo in the 43rd minute. Relatively quiet for the majority of the half, the young striker cut to the top of the box to receive a Hyun Young-min pass, but hit it too close to the keeper to give the Dragons back the lead.

The opening minutes of the second half saw Lee Jong-ho at the center of attention. Seemingly taking over the target striker position usually reserved for Ristić, Jong-ho was wide open for a cross in the 51st minute that he simply couldn't climb high enough to bring down. While he sent that shot sailing over the bar, he didn't have the opportunity to touch the ball that came to him in nearly the exact same spot in the 59th minute. A light push to the back sent the mini-tank that is Lee Jong-ho to the ground and it was enough for the ref to award the penalty kick. I've seen the same thing not called many times in the past, but defenders need to be aware of where they are when they're putting their hands on a striker. Doing so in the box, even lightly, isn't a great idea and Seongnam was punished for it as Stevica Ristić made no mistake from the spot. The goal was Stevo's 6th of the season and put him two off the top of the Golden Boot race, tied for third with Daejeon's Adriano.

His 7th of the season very well could have come in the 85th minute when Jang Suk-won made a woeful mistake on the ball and gifted it to Stevo just outside of the box. Luckily for the embarrassed defender it forced Ristić to his weaker left foot and he sent the ball wide of the near post. A mistake that nearly cost the home team two points when a minute later Seongnam striker Kim Dong-hee was played into a one-on-one with Kim Byung-ji just outside of the six yard box. Dong-hee hit it low and hard, but Byung-ji dipped into the fountain of youth yet again and not only did extremely well to get down to it, but also knocked the rebounded kick back into play. His late game heroics were enough to preserve the win for Jeonnam.

The win gives the Dragons 23 points on the season and sees them onto the right side of the dividing line at 6th place. However, 5th place Gwangju and 4th place Pohang both have 23 points and could potentially be leap-frogged if the Dragons pick up all three points against FC Seoul this Saturday. John Emanuelson and I will fully preview that matchup in tomorrow's Writer's Chat.

Not to end on a sour note, but there was one other big thing from last night's game:
21-year-old midfielder Lee Chang-min's nameplate was also strangely missing from the stadium as well. Neither player was with the reserves, nor were they named in the 18 available for the day. With the transfer window opening in a few short weeks, I'm truly hoping neither of these players is on their way out... but we'll have to wait and see what shakes out. I'll have more on this in my Jeonnam Dragons Transfer Talk early next week.

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