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AFC Recap: Shandong Luneng Taishan FC vs. FC Seoul


FC Seoul traveled to Jinan and recorded a comprehensive victory scoring four goals.  Kick-off was at 4:30 and I had to work, so I missed the game.  Therefore, I will just provide a link to the highlights and a few thoughts.
Choi Yong-soo trotted out the same line-up that has featured in all three games.  After their loss to Jeonbuk last Saturday, I was not sure how Seoul would respond, but I would say this is how a team should rebound after a setback.  To put four past a team, hitherto, had been quite dangerous is a statement of intent.  With a return of nine points in three games, they have a commanding lead and should go through to the knockout round as long as they do not lose their next three games.  Two of them will be at home, so hopefully Seoul will wrap up the group on April 5th and Choi can rotate the team and rest the first eleven for the remaining fixtures.  

I cannot decide if Seoul's movement was great or Shandong were terrible defensively.  Watching the highlights it seems like they allowed too much space for Dejan and Adriano to run into in the first half, but whatever the duo were lacking on Saturday, they made up for yesterday.  The team as a whole felt less static and there was a lot of good movement by the forwards AND the midfield to get into open space.  

FC Seoul's first goal and fourth goals are good examples of this in my opinion.  For the first (2:00 mark) , Ko Kwang-min had the ball on the left side of the box and Takahagi just stands at the top of the box.  Here is an image I tried to capture below.  Since I am deficient in matters of technology, it might not be very clear and for that my apologies.


When Ko passes the ball back up top to Ju Se-jong, Takahagi makes his run into the box.  In the video, you can see him pointing behind himself to for Ko to pass to Ju.  Here is an image below of what I am trying to demonstrate. 


It is not very clear in the image, but if you watch the video, you can see Takahagi pointing and then making a run.  Ju sees Takahagi move into the space and sends the ball back to him.  Here is one more image from the replay that shows a closer look at the chaos of Shandong's defense.  


Takaghi's run into the box is great because he finds space and Ju's recognition to send the ball back helps split the defense.  I feel bad for Zhao Mingjian (#2 in the orange box) because I am sure he was of two minds: should he stay with Ko Kwang-min or help pick up Takahagi.  From there, Takahagi wonderfully chips a ball over the onrushing CB (Gil, I believe) and Adriano finishes his chance.  He was a bit lucky since it deflected off the keeper and on another day, such as last Saturday, that might have been saved or gone wide.  However, as I stated in one of my earlier pieces, one of the most important factors that cannot be planned for is luck.  

My point is the video and these three images I believe capture the essence of Seoul's improved movement and passing that was missing from last Saturday's defeat.  The images are not great and for that I apologize, but hopefully through practice, I will get better at doing this.  That being said, I also think the images and video show how poor Shandong were defensively yesterday.  

I also think Seoul's fourth goal demonstrates their quality in attack and Shandong's lack defensively.  Dejan comes deep to receive the ball from Go Yo-han, lays it off for Go to run onto.  Go then plays Dejan through and Dejan cuts back for Adriano to score.  It was a thing of beauty and it felt like Seoul were playing FIFA or PES at that point.  

I would say the only negative for Seoul was that they conceded another goal on a header.  In fact, every goal conceded has been via a header.  Keeper Yoo Hyun did well to punch it clear initially, but no one was on hand to kick it into touch.  From there, Hao Junmin crossed it back into box and Go Yo-han was unable to hold off Jucilei, who scored via the header.  

I feel as though this is going to be how opponents will go at Seoul this year.  Go Yo-han has been great so far this year.  He does well going forward and his goal yesterday was well taken, but I wonder if he might be a liability in the box defensively.  He provides great coverage, but in a battle between him someone of Jucelei's physique, I think there will usually only be one winner and unfortunately it is not Go.  

Also, Yoo Hyun is not a hobbit, but I feel like opponents do.  I think a tactic will be to continue to pump balls into the box and make him come off his line to claim them or go up against bigger strikers.  Besides that though, I have no complaints.  

It was another great win for Seoul.  In my preview, as usual always, I got it wrong again.  I expected Seoul's success to come off of free kicks and balls into the box to create chaos for the defense.  Instead, they did their best work on the carpet and created some sumptuous moves.  However, I was right about controlling the midfield.  Seoul's trio of Ju Se-jong, Takahagi, and Shin Jin-ho were dominant yesterday and that is why Seoul scored four.  

I also expected more from the Chinese team.  They averaged 2.2 goals a game last year and Tardelli looked dangerous in the highlights.  Maybe it will take them a bit to gel, but the evidence from this game indicates that Seoul are head and shoulders above them offensively.  The one player that stood out for me was their right back Zhao Mingjian.  On a couple of occasions he was dangerous running down the flanks and crossing.  The spin he puts on the ball, particularly with the outside of his foot is amazing.  Besides that though, I do not think Shandong can take too many positives away from this game.  

As Matthew Binns pointed out in his tweet, it was surprising that Shandong did not adopt any of Jeonbuk's tactics.  I think that is the way a lot of teams, with the exception of maybe Guangzhou Evergrande since they have the firepower to match Seoul, will set up against Seoul if they want to win.  Pack the midfield, sit back on defense, strangle service, and hope to get something on a set piece.  


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