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AFC Recap: Jeonbuk Show Signs of Their Attacking Potential to Overcome Binh Duong

Life after thirty: experienced striker Lee Dong-gook takes his impressive AFC Champions League goal tally to new heights during Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' victory against Becamex Binh Duong. (Photo Credit: The-AFC.com)
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors finally made good on their promise to attack this season, playing with confidence and verve against a Becamex Binh Duong often forced onto the back foot. The fact the scoreline was only 2-0 is to the credit of the Vietnamese team's resolute defending. One fears that if Jeonbuk can build on this style of play, then they could once again find themselves parked at the summit of the K-League for the season's duration.

As speculated, manager Choi Kang-hee opted for a rotated squad and an alternate formation to which he employed against FC Seoul. With Binh Duong struggling for form, it made sense to press heavily from the kick-off. He therefore opted for a line up mostly resembling the team who played FC Tokyo at the start of the campaign, notably dropping weekend goalscorer Kim Shin-wook in the process.

The defence saw Lim Jong-eun reinstated after sitting out the weekend's league opener. Surprisingly, he was partnered at centre back with relatively unknown Choi Kyu-baek, making his debut for the club after moving from Daegu University. Kim Changsoo and Park Wonjae in the wing back roles completed the back four.

Central midfield saw Erik Paartalu in the defensive role with Lee Jae-sung moving forward to assist in attacking plays. Ricardo Lopes and Ko Moo-yeol took to the right and left flanks respectively. Lee Dong-gook led the attacking line, with recent Jeonnam acquisition Lee Jong-ho sitting between a supporting striker role and an advanced midfielder.

The opening ten minutes saw passing exchanges from both sides, with Jeonbuk struggling to turn possession into something more. Binh Duong started brightly however and, on nine minutes when an attack broke down the right flank, new boy Choi Kyu-baek was called upon to snuff out the danger. It was not the only time he was tested in the opening exchanges, ensuring a Binh Duong attack was cleared before the trigger could be pulled. A bright start for the debutant it seemed.

The combination of the three Lees; Dong-gook, Jong-ho and Jae-sung, enjoyed some exciting passing interchanges as the half progressed, but were often foiled with the final ball through as Binh Duong became increasingly defensive-minded in a bid to stop the onslaught.

In addition to this, ex-Jeju forward Lopes was making promising use of the right channel, but often failing to produce or complete the final pass. During the first thirty minutes, he would often opt to take the ball inside towards the box from the right to no avail, rather than play to Kim Chang-soo overlapping on the right and thereby stretching the tightening Binh Duong defence.

Lopes was not to be denied for long though. When an exchange of passes between Lee Jae-sung and Lee Dong-gook rolled the ball to his feet at the edge of the box, the Brazilian struck first time, thumping his shot into the left side of the goal and leaving the keeper rooted to the spot.

The second half commenced with Jeonbuk pressing from the off, culminating in a shot from Ko Moo-yeol sent narrowly wide of the left post.

Binh Duong seemed pretty contempt at employing damage limitation measures for this spell, tightly marking most Jeonbuk players and breaking down the play in the final third. A quick counter though saw Cameroon striker Christian Amougou blast a shot from close range over the bar.

As the Vietnamese champions became harder to break down, Choi Kang-hee chose to adjust his tactics in a bid to spread the play and free up room for Lee Dong-gook and Lee Jae-sung. Lee Jong-ho, who played well for his 55 minutes, and Ko Moo-yeol were replaced by left winger Leonardo and striker Kim Shin-wook respectively. This change saw Leonardo and Lopes push more towards the byline to cross the ball into box, with the hope that the towering heights of Kim Shin-wook and Erik Paartalu could pose an aerial threat.

Before the effects of these tactics could be assessed, Binh Duong had their best chance of the game to equalise, with an in-swinging corner being cleared only as far as the edge of the box, where midfielder Dang Van Thanh was waiting to send in a powerful strike first time. Kwoun Sun-tae reacted quickly however, smothering the ball and preventing any opportunity for a rebound.

Jeonbuk continued about their high-tempo play, exploiting both the flanks and the middle with a mixture of crosses and short passing exchanges, yet their final balls through continue to be blocked. As Binh Duong became narrower, their counter play suffered, best summarised by a more than optimistic 40 yard shot due to lack of support up front.

As their ability to threaten Jeonbuk decreased, Choi Kang-hee opted for his third substitution of the evening, removing defensive midfielder Erik Paartalu for the more creative Luiz in a bid to unlock the Vietnamese team's defence.

The home side was eventually rewarded before the commencement of injury time. A persistent Lopes pushed forward down the right channel despite several bids to intercept the ball. The Brazilian proceeded to pull the cross back towards Lee Dong-gook situated in the centre of the box. The seasoned striker took his chance with more than a hint of good fortune, deflecting the ball heavily off the nearest Binh Duong defender and past the wrong-footed keeper.

There is some initial arguments for an own goal but, at time of writing, it seems Lee Dong-gook has been awarded with it, taking his all-time tally in the competition up to 30 as well as scoring in all three games of the competition thus far. He could have made it 31 very shortly after when he proceeded to blast a fine chance high over the bar shortly before the whistle blew for full time.

Overall, the K-League champions should feel pleased with their efforts, and a deserved clean sheet from an inexperienced defensive pairing. After three tough matches, each with a few criticisms of their defence or playing style, the only one that can be made here is Jeonbuk probably should have scored more They therefore need to work on unlocking defences who will seek to repeat Binh Duong's tactics.

Choi Kang-hee was surprisingly critical of his team's play for this very reason, bemoaning too much intricate play in the middle and "too many vague crosses into the area". He did concede however that with such a influx of players in the winter, the team still needs time.

After these many acquisitions though, it does seem the team is beginning to show signs of gelling together, making the future very bright indeed for the men in neon green.

Final Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2 - 0 Becamex Binh Duong

Highlights from the game can be found via The AFC here.

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