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Recap: Suwon Bluewings 2-2 Jeonnam Dragons

(image via dragons.co.kr)
The Dragons flashed some late drama and scored two goals in two minutes to steal a point on the road and remain undefeated through two rounds. Picking up a draw at Big Bird is nothing to sneeze at, but there was a lot more to the game than the scoreline indicates. 

Changing it up from how things were done last season, I'll be doing regular Recap posts for the Dragons with a look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the match that was. Most often these sections will focus on specific player performances, but will also branch out into entire positional groups, and managerial choices. With no further ado, let's dive in:

The Good

Mislav Oršić: His 81st minute belter is not only nominated for Goal of the Week, but completely changed the landscape of the game. The goal came from an impressive distance and was struck well enough to catch Suwon keeper Noh Dong-geon wrong-footed and capped off a nearly 25 minute offensive assault led by none other than Oršić himself. In a moment of purely individual skill, Oršić put the team on his back and led the way by example. Minutes later he netted an assist on a lovely 1-2 with Jugović for the tying goal.

Vedran Jugović: Pretty easy to stick with the two goal scorers, right? While Jugović's equalizing goal was arguably as impressive as Oršić's (splitting two defenders and slotting it near post), what's not arguable is his ability to control the game. A halftime substitute, Jugović replaced Jeon Woo-young (who had a forgettable day) and the game instantly changed. Though I think it was an odd choice to place him as a CDM, Vedran was still able to get far enough forward to facilitate the offense, and equally impressively, did quite well defensively. Since his inclusion in the team I've wanted to see the Dragons shift to a 4-4-2 and this performance 100% solidifies that opinion. He looked uncomfortable up top versus Suwon FC in week one, and no one else on this squad can control the center of the pitch half as well as him. Hopefully the knock he picked up at the end of the game isn't significant and he can return to action after the international break.

Possession: Even though the majority of the halftime stats were quite ugly, Jeonnam barely edged Suwon in possession. The Dragons were wholehearted outplayed in the first half, so the stat felt slightly misleading. However, their 53% possession at the end of the game felt equally misrepresentative as they seemed to be constantly on the ball after the 55 minute mark. If Jeonnam's multitude of attackers are going to have a chance, they're going to need long stretches on the ball to open up passing lanes and off the ball runs. Whether this bulk of possession came from the Dragons midfield stepping up or Suwon sitting back on a false sense of security can never be fully known, but I have a feeling it's a combination of the two.

The Bad

Tale of Two Halves: Boy did Jeonnam come out flat. A lot of this can be placed on the formation and personnel (more on that below), but it can't be overlooked that the Dragons just didn't seem ready to go at the start of the game. Whether it was unclear assignments, a lack of motivation, or just a bad bus ride, very few wearing yellow looked up for the first half. Luckily they turned it around about 15 minutes into the second half, but they're going to need to be far more consistent throughout the full 90 if they're to get all three points soon.

Still No Cho-Suk Jae: It was amazingly tempting to put this in the "Ugly" category, but Cho is still a complete unknown two games into the season. While the Dragons did manage to put two past the Bluewings, it's not exactly representative of an offense clicking on all cylinders as much as it was two glorious plays of singular talent. Put more simply, Jeonnam desperately needed goals for roughly 30 minutes of the second half and Cho didn't see a single minute. He scored 19 goals in Challenge last year. Not one minute for Jeonnam so far.

The Ugly

Formation: What the hell were the Dragons playing in the first half? This isn't rhetorical. I'm quite literally asking anyone that may know. Yes, it was said to be a 4-2-3-1 matching what manager Noh Sang-rae trotted out in the first match, but it certainly didn't look like it. What wound up happening was something more like a 4-2-4 with both midfielders playing defensively. This may protect the goal decently, but there's no one to get the ball up to the strikers unless they just kick it as far as they can a hope something good happens. Which was their offensive strategy in the first half, and unsurprisingly it didn't work. Without anyone to get the ball from the backline to the four attackers that started the game, Jeonnam spent way too much time behind the ball inviting Suwon to attack. And attack they did.

Hong Jin-ki: What an absolute howler from the 25-year-old. Both Suwon goals came directly up the middle and both were a result of abhorrent marking and positioning from the CB. Rather than simply berating him in the written word, let's just take a look at his "marking" on both of the goals. Here's where he starts on Santos' opener:

Without even questioning what the hell he's doing that far forward when there are three attackers in the box, how on earth do you let their number 10 get that much space? I know Santos is fast, but intelligent (or even competent in this case) positioning can make up for that. The result?

A wide open shot on net with a powerless Kim Min-sik hoping for a miss. Give a striker like Santos that much net to look at and he's not going to miss.

If the second goal simply came down to poor marking, then there'd be one clear thing to work on. Unfortunately, it was more than just that. In a lousy attempt to make up for shoddy marking yet again, Hong horribly mistimes his header and leaves Cho Dong-geon all the time he needs.

In an attempt to be fair, Yeom Ki-hun is an absolute wizard and that's a hell of a cross. But failing to mark your man as badly as Hong did on this second goal bears far more responsibility for the goal than Yeom's passing mastery. Look. At. That. Space.

Lineup: Speaking of defenders, Lee Ji-nam had a tremendous game at CB in Round 1 and he didn't even see the field against the Bluewings. His omission from the starting lineup was a head-scratcher enough to begin with, but how manager Noh Sang-rae wasn't at least tempted to put him in after watching two goals come directly up the gut is beyond me. Instead he allowed Hong Jin-ki to go the full 90. Additionally, leaving Jugović on the bench for the first half was clearly a mistake. His mark on the game was already gone over above, so imagine that for a full match instead of just half. Add in the already mentioned exclusion of Cho Suk-jae and that's three potential difference makers getting a combined 45 minutes of action. It could've been enough to steal three points instead of just one.


  1. I am starting to think the one signing Jeonnam messed up on was the manager.

    1. You would be correct. There's enough talent on this team to finish top 6, and possibly challenge for an ACL spot, but he just has no clue how to use them properly. Moments of brilliance from individual players will keep them from a relegation scare, but as long as he's in charge, I don't see it going much further than that.


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