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Recap: Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 Jeonnam Dragons


Ulsan's Han Sang-woon pulls off a double nutmeg to set up what should have been Ulsan's third goal of the day as the Dragons concede twice to pick up their first loss of 2016. Below is a quick recap of the Good, the Bad, and quite a bit of the Ugly from today's match.

The Good

Cho Suk-jae: The pacey poacher finally got some minutes and bagged his first K-League Classic goal. Though he earned a yellow early in the match for a reckless challenge, he was otherwise composed and played well on the wing. Would still love to see him in the center of the pitch, but he proved his versatility with his first start of the season.

The Bad

Lee Ho-seung: Not the best start for the 26-year-old. A missed punch combined with some truly wretched defending led to the first goal, and he may want the second one back as well. Seemed out of sorts positionally, but that's not overly surprising given his lack of minutes. Had a few nice saves late in the game to keep the Ulsan lead within striking distance for Jeonnam.

The Ugly

Possession: The match somehow ended at 55%-45% in favor of Ulsan, but sat at 65%-35% for most of the majority of the afternoon. It's a cliche, but an amazingly true one: you can't score if you don't have the ball.

Defense: Calling that group of players a defense is slightly insulting to the word. Another match and yet another Center Back pairing couldn't find any rhythm whatsoever. Shoddy marking, a complete bewilderment for spacing, and utterly missed assignments (the worst of which can be seen below) led to two in the back of the net for Ulsan... and it really could've been more. After having an absolute howler two weeks back, Hong Jin-ki was inexplicably back in the game and was muscled and played off the ball with regularity. With captain Choi Hyo-jin on the bench (more on this later), the backline looked even more out of sorts than usual... which I didn't think was possible.





Substitutions: Yet again manager Noh Sang-rae pulled a head scratcher of a substitution and yanked goal scorer Cho Suk-jae at the half in favor of defensive midfielder Lee Seul-Chan. 10 minutes into the second half, Lee blasted a shot directly at the Ulsan keeper Kim Yong-dae that Cho likely would've buried and put the Dragons ahead. He later completely whiffed on a headed opportunity just outside the six yard box. While there's no true way to know for sure, it stands to reason that the striker who had already scored on the day and netted 19 last season would've done better on one of the two opportunities.

Unfortunately the abhorrent decisions from the manager didn't end there. Shortly after Kovacec scored his second for Ulsan, Noh put in Lee Ji-min (a DEFENDER) to replace midfielder Jung Seok-min. That's right, after making one defensive move at the half by taking out his striker, he doubled down on the defensive strategy after going down a goal.

In a move that might make some sense in a vacuum, Noh then used his third and final substitution to bring on attacker Bae Chun-suk for defender Bang Dae-jong in the 77th. While it does indeed make sense to replace a defender with an attacker late in a game down by a goal, the substitutions beforehand make the decision absolutely enraging. Had Noh not replaced the attacker he already had in the game, then Cho would've still been on the field in the 77th and Bae could've been an additional attacker. Any level of offensive aggression in the second half would've seen Bae come on late to add to Cho, Stevo, and Oršić's push with two defensive midfielders behind them helping the defense against the counter attack. Instead, Noh botched his first two substitutions in an overly defensive attempt to grind out a 1-1 draw on the road. The result was a defensive midfielder, defender, and bench attacker attempting to score a goal late in the game.

These atrocious and wholly baffling substitution choices by Noh Sang-rae prove without a doubt that he has no idea how to win a close game. Nor does he apparently even want to win. In the season opener he subbed off not one, but two of his attacking options for defenders to settle for a scoreless draw at home to a team playing their first game in the top flight. Now, just two games later, he subbed off Cho Suk-jae after the striker scored within the first 40 minutes of seeing the field. And then went even more defensive after conceding. If there's a strategy to his decision making, I'm not sure anyone outside of the voices in his head know what it is.

Rumors: This can't be confirmed 100%, but a source with direct knowledge of the team said captain Choi Hyo-jin wasn't started not because of injury, but simply because Kim Young-wook had a good game against Ulsan last season. If this has any grain of truth, the Dragons are well and truly doomed to relegation as long as Noh Sang-rae is allowed to fill out the lineup card.

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