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Recap: It's All too Easy (FC Seoul vs. Sangju Sangmu)

(from KBSSports.co.kr via daum.net)
Sunday's match between FC Seoul and Sangju Sangmu, while not matching the prestige of Seoul's season opener against Jeonbuk, was still a great day out.  Home openers, at least since I have been following Seoul have not gone well.  In fact, that is an understatement.

Here is a table of Seoul's home opener and the result of every match I attended:

FC Seoul vs. Gangwon FC
FC Seoul vs. Jeonbuk
FC Seoul vs. Suwon Samsung
FC Seoul vs. Pohang
FC Seoul vs. Jeonnam
FC Seoul vs. Jeonbuk
FC Seoul vs. Sangju

In the seven home openers, I have never seen Seoul win until Sunday's one.  Seoul's record against Jeonbuk is particularly egregious, especially if you count the season opening defeat.  They played three times and Choi Yong-soo has lost all three times.  I probably should have taken this into account when making my prediction last time out.

However, in 2012 Seoul did defeat Jeonnam 2-0, but I was in Thailand that weekend on my southeast Asia trip.  Of course, when I leave Korea, it seems as though Seoul get their shit together.  Anyways, I digress.

Their record in the seven home openers I have attended has been horrendous.  Here are the results of their home openers before Sunday's win against Sangju.

1 (17%)
5 (83%)
4 (0.67)
10 (1.66)
1 (0.17)

Absolutely dismal.  However, with Sunday's win, their record has improved so much.

1 (14%)
1 (14%)
5 (72%)
8 (1.14)
10 (1.25)
4 (0.57)

That is why I would I would say, while not being monumental or groundbreaking, this was still a big win for Seoul.  Based on past history (I have covered the last five years here), losing their first game at home has often been symptomatic of Seoul starting poorly in the league.  Yet, not only did they win, they did so in resounding fashion and this makes me optimistic about this season.


(from kleague.com)
Seoul had less possession than Sangju, but that is most likely a result of Osmar's goal in the fifth minute.  Having the lead allowed for Seoul to sit back, defend, and try to pick Sangju off on the counter.  Also, Seoul started the game pressing intensely (more on that later), so I am sure they were fatigued as well.  

However, Seoul had more shots total and on target than Sangju.  This is a pleasant change from the last two years when Seoul struggled to create shots, let alone, score goals.  Two out of the four goals were not classic by any means and involved a lot of luck, but as the cliche goes, winners make their own luck or something like that.  Nonetheless, I feel as though Seoul earned the other two goals through good work, especially on the part of Adriano.

Speaking of Adriano, Sangju committed fourteen fouls and thirteen of those were against him.  Right now, he is just unstoppable.  Even against Jeonbuk in the first game, Adriano played well and I feel, was unlucky not to score.  I worry that some team in China is going to try and pinch him during the summer transfer window.  If that happens, then Seoul will definitely not have it as easy as they did on Sunday.

Swing and a Miss

This year, my predictions have been wrong, for which I pleasantly surprised.  I predicted draws against Buriram United and Sanfrecce Hiroshima, both of which Seoul won in style.  I predicted a victory over Jeonbuk and a tough road win over Shandong Luneng.  Seoul lost to Jeonbuk but won with ease in China.  In the first four games, I got one result right but my prediction of how the game would play out against Shandong was absolutely wrong.

This is a poor excuse, but I feel as though with it being so early in the season mistakes will happen.  In the opening week, Sangju looked quite good against Ulsan, controlling the game and rolling to a fairly convincing 2-0 win.  It did not help that Ulsan's keeper Kim Yong-dae was a massive calamity between the sticks, but based on the highlights I thought the military team would provide a stern test, especially so early in the season.

Hell, globally I compared them to Tony Pulis' West Brom as being a sound defensive team with the ability to hit on the counter and do damage utilizing their tall striker Park Gi-dong via set pieces.  Locally, I said they had a similar feel to Seongnam FC last year, except replace Kim Do-heon with Lee Seung-ki, Nam Jun-jae with Lim Sang-hyub, and Hwang Eui-jo with Park Gi-dong.  Based on the scoreline, those comparisons seem to be way off base.

Formation and Tactics

However, I would blame the manager Cho Jin-ho for this rather than being way off base.  Against Ulsan, Sangju set out in a 4-1-4-1 formation.  Here is how it looked.

(from footballuser.com)

Against Ulsan, I would say this was a solid formation that allowed for Sangju to control the game.  I guess that Cho, after watching Seoul against Shandong, decided to try and emulate Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee's tactics and go with three in the back.  Rather than match Seoul's 3-5-2/5-3-2, Cho set up in a 3-4-3.

(from footballuser.com)
Slotting into the three man defense were CB Kim Oh-kyu, Kim Sung-hwan, who played as a DM against Ulsan and was to act ostensibly as a sweeper, and the right full-back against Ulsan Lee Yong, who now lined up as the right sided CB.  The left full-back against Ulsan, Park Jin-po pushed up to play as a right sided wing-back and the right winger against Ulsan, Kim Do-youp, played on the left as an attacking forward.  That was quite a lot of chopping and changing for a team considering they did quite well the week before.

I understand why Cho chose to play with three in the back.  The logic stipulates that there should always be a spare man in the back to cover for the defense.  Therefore, when teams used to play with two strikers, then the other might counter with three CBs, which is why I guess 3-5-2 was so popular from the 80's to the mid-90's.  Of course, once teams started playing with only one striker, it negated the advantage that third CB provided and it was often disadvantageous because marking one striker with three CBs was wasteful.

However, again I am digressing and I want to say that I am sure Cho sought to neutralize Seoul's strikers Dejan and Adriano with his three CBs.  Also, I think he wanted to match the mobility and vision of Seoul's back three, which is why he played Kim Sung-hwan as a sweeper and Lee Yong as a CB.  To do so, Cho dropped his center back Yeo Sung-hye.

What I am not sure about is why he chose to  his goal scoring midfielder Lee Seung-ki, his left-winger Lim Sang-hyub, and his tall striker Park Gi-dong.  Maybe Cho Young-cheol offers better movement is quicker, so that is why he chose to go with him.  In fairness, Cho Young-cheol did have a great moment in the first half where if he scored, it would have been a contender for K-League goal of the year.  Nonetheless, I think the manager realized the error of his ways because he brought on Lee Seung-ki and Park Gi-dong to immediately start the second half rather than languish on the bench.

Seoul, on the other hand, set out with the same 11 that have started all year.  The CBs Kim Dong-woo and Osmar took turns pushing up into the midfield to provide assistance when possible while Kim Won-sik sat deep.  Generally, I detest three in the back since I think it often is overly defensive, but the way Seoul have been playing this year it has not.  If this continues, then I might have to rethink my opposition to the back three.

The Match Itself

Seoul started out with a lot of energy.  They pressed the hell out of Sangju any time their players had the ball.  Also, Seoul looked to exploit the right side channel and in the third minute Osmar threaded a wonderfully chipped through ball for Ko Kwang-min to run onto.

(from KBSSports.co.kr via daum.net)

I have circled Osmar, Ko Kwang-min, and Park Jin-po since they are the major players in this piece.  It was a great move to try and exploit the space in the channel behind the right wing-back and in front of and to the side of the right CB.  The image above does not do justice to the ball that Osmar played.

Unfortunately, what followed was some Sunday league bullshit by both teams.

(from KBSSports.co.kr via daum.net)

Ko is just about to cross the ball, and it is kind of high and looping, which allows for Takahagi to get on to the end of it.  Unsure of what to do, head it or not, he misplays it.  Dejan is alert enough to try and shoot, but it is blocked by the defense for a corner.  Good buildup play by Seoul, but Takahagi's fluff might have cost them a goal.

However, Sangju keeper Yang Dong-won was feeling mighty generous.  This image does not capture how dreadful of a flap he had as a keeper.

(from KBSSports.co.kr via daum.net)
The ball is obscured a bit by Osmar's arm, but he completely misheads it.  However, because Yang absolutely misplays the cross and ends up in no man's land, the back of the net is wide open for Osmar to shoot, hence the title of this blog post.

(from KBSSports.co.kr via daum.net)
It was at this point, I felt very confident that all three points were in the bag.  I said if Seoul scored right away, then Sangju would have to play with the ball and Seoul would be lethal on the counter.  That is exactly what they did.  Seoul dropped back and invited Sangju to come forward on the attack, hoping to pick them off when space opened behind the defense and it almost worked in the 14th minute when Go Yo-han put Dejan through, who crossed for Adriano to hit.  Unfortunately, the shot struck the cross bar and rebounded out.

I am not going to describe all of Seoul's efforts in great detail.  Instead, I will link the video below.  I just want to point out two more things and then finish.

Yoo Hyun continues to fill me with dread at times.  Maybe it is being a fan of Arsenal, but keeper has always been a position of pain as a supporter.  I feel as though Yoo suffers an Ospina-like habit of palming shots back into play (see 1:39 mark) and one day, it is going to cost Seoul dearly as an opponent will knock in the rebound.

(from KBSSports.co.kr via daum.net)
Yoo was quite lucky that the player in the red box was not closer to the ball.  He made a great save on the free kick, which has pace and spin on it, but even against Jeonbuk he caused some danger by knocking the ball down rather than catching it.  One day, I think Yoo will be caught out on this.

Next, there is a reason why this man is a legend.  Look at the silky dribbling skills.  Also, I appreciate the smile and shrug at the end of the play.  I feel like there is a reason why the team spirit seems so high right now.  Who wouldn't enjoy playing with Dejan?

It was a great game and right now, with the team playing so well, I wish there was not a break next week.  Jeonbuk dropped points against Ulsan and were lucky not to lose, Suwon threw away a two goal lead, and Seongnam drew against new boys Suwon FC.  Even Pohang, with a 3-3 draw agasint Gwangju on the opening day have shown that they have problems.  I really feel right now that this, with their momentum and team spirit, that Seoul are unstoppable and that this is going to be their year.

Here are the highlights.

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