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Jeonnam Dragons 3-1 Busan I'Park: Recap


Jeonnam ends imperfect May on a high note netting three goals at home to down Busan and win first K-League match of the month. 

With a scant 5 points separating 2nd place Suwon Bluewings from 10th place FC Seoul, the race to stay on the top half of the K-League is wide open. This past weekend Jeonnam secured a much needed win to get back on the right side of the dividing line by finally beating a team they should beat. After playing down to Gwangju and Daejeon to begin the month, the Dragons finally put the hammer down on a weaker team to secure three points in front of 4,000 home faithful.

The Dragons came out charging hard from the first whistle and for the first time in memory, played with a more controlled and patient offensive strategy. Though there was the usual wing play and lobbed cross to the center (including a fantastic chance for Ahn Yong-woo in the 13th minute), it wasn't nearly as prevalent as in every other match this season. Ahn found himself back in the action a few minutes later when his first touch led him straight towards goal instead of further towards the wing. He easily penetrated the defense and had a solid shot that was saved, then sent soaring by Jeon Hyeon-chul, but the decision to directly attack as opposed to playing wide was an encouraging change. In the 21st minute Choi Hyo-jin (who had a fantastic game all around) continued the trend of directly attacking. The ball was sent to him wide on an overlapping run, but instead of sending in the usual cross, Choi cut inside and like Ahn put a strong shot on net Busan keeper Lee Beom-young had to parry wide. Again, this didn't wind up in a goal, but it was the second shot on net with power that came from bringing the play inside instead of attempting to force something from a cross.

Stevica Ristić was the first to cash in on this more direct style of play in the 28th minute. A lovely bit of holdup play by Mislav Oršić on top of the box drew every defender in sight, leaving Stevo wide open on the right side of the box where he slotted home a tough angled shot low and hard. The goal was only his third on the season and much needed to end a quiet spell. The Dragons continued to play much more directly than usual for the rest of the half and created a good number of chances as well. Easily the biggest benefit of this was the number of shots they were forcing Lee Beom-young to save instead of watching them sail wide.

As strong as Jeonnam finished the first, Busan came out stronger to start the second, finding the back of the net in under 30 seconds. I'Park's Kim Yong-tae was perfectly played into the box for a one on one with Kim Byung-ji, who he attempted to nutmeg with a soft shot. Byung-ji awkwardly saved the shot, but sent the rebound flying to a more than willing Yoo Ji-hun who powered it into the near post. First thing's first on this, it must be said the marking was quite poor on the rebound. However, Kim Byung-ji simply must do better on such a dribbler of a shot. There's absolutely no reason for that rebound to be given and it's likely that mentality that had the defenders switched off enough to allow Busan to capitalize. As I said in the match preview I'm not convinced he should be our de facto number one anymore and this only helped further that. Perhaps we'll see the youngster Han Yoo-sung get a mid-week start against Gwangju, but more on that at another time.

The lead was extremely short lived however, as Stevo drew and converted a penalty kick two minutes later. When watching the game live I thought the call was iffy, but justified. Having had the benefit of replay I can honestly say we were gifted one. Busan defender Lee Kyung-ryul and Ristić came together awkwardly in the box, but I didn't see enough contact to warrant the call. However, I'll gladly take it. Clearly feeling the confidence of his first goal, Ristić confidently stepped up and hit it high and hard to beat Lee Beom-young and quickly give the Dragons back the lead. He nearly had his hat trick in the 54th minute when he chipped the keeper only to have it land on top of the net by inches.

Then something wonderful happened.

For the first time since the shock win against Jeonbuk on April 26th, Lee Jong-ho took the field for the Dragons in the 68th minute and factored in quickly. Immediately taking his spot as playmaker in the center of the field, he played a lovely through ball to Stevo. Unfortunately the 194cm beast of a man that is Lee Beom-young was perfectly positioned and tackled the ball to safety just outside of the box. Scarcely 60 seconds later, Ahn Yong-woo put on a FIFA 15-esk fake shot in the box that sent I'Park defender Noh Haeng-seok flopping to the ground like a fool and scored. The joyful nature in which this sealed the game was likely only topped by the delight my compatriot at the game takes in the popcorn chicken and soda combo.

The win positively started a stretch that sees four of the next five Dragons games on home soil with crucial points on the line. While it's important to keep perspective on the match and realize it was a rather weak Busan team they beat, there were a plethora of positives. More than any, I'm extremely encourage by the change in offensive strategy and hope it's permanent. Not only has the "lob in the cross" strategy been ineffective, it's amazingly easy to predict and defend. By playing more direct, the attackers are at long last able to show off the abilities they've had to keep dormant and take on defenders leading to more shots on target and less wasted opportunities.

Whether it's a weaker opponent or not, it's great to see Ristić and Ahn find their way onto the score sheet and get their confidence back up. Also, Oršić continues to play better and better, and Leandro can continue to be a spark off the bench. Add in the return of Lee Jong-ho and this team is primed to pick up some points with so many home games slated for June. With the equally weak Gwangju up next, now is the time for our top attackers to do what they do best and secure another three points before tougher opposition comes calling.

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