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Preview: Suwon FC vs Suwon Bluewings

It's been a long time coming, but Saturday will finally see the first ever Suwon derby and the first intra-city derby since Korean football's decentralisation in 1995. And with the teams sitting in 9th and 10th place in the league with only one win a piece all season it is set up for an even game. As of today, there is less than a thousand tickets remaining on sale and it's one of the few games this Kleague season that seems to be catching the Korean public's attention.

Before I start this piece, I will preface it with this; I have been dreading writing this article because it is the one fixture this year where I am forced to realise that I support a football team whose name is Suwon Samsung Bluewings (and that's not quite football, is it?) So from here on out, I will be referring to Suwon FC as SFC, and Suwon Bluewings as SB. Sorry about that.

Suwon FC

After a successful season in the Kleague Challenge last season, ultimately earning promotion through the play-offs, SFC have found life in the Kleague Classic a little more testing. Despite starting the season in good form, recording 4 draws and 1 win from their opening games of the season, they have since tailed off and have now lost 4 of their last 5 games.

Their mini unbeaten run of 6 games at the start of the season was built on a solid defence and strong team work ethic. Without the ball, SFC defended deeply, with two compact banks of defenders, and when they won the ball back they looked to hit teams on the counter with pace and direct running. The highlights of this run were undoubtedly the openeing day draw away from home at Jeonnam and the point recorded against a very strong Seongnam team. However, just like SB they were unable to convert a lot of good performances into wins and are now starting to suffer for that.

Since their 3-0 loss away to Seoul in April they have gone onto lose against Jeonbuk, Jeju United and Daejeon Citizen. But perhaps the most dissapointing result was the 0-0 home draw against bottom of the table Incheon United. The early season defensive solidity has disipated with 12 goals conceded in the last 5 games. And with 5 goals conceded in their last home game against Jeju (a team who play in a very similar style to SB) SB will be thinking that now is a great time to face their cross-city rivals.

SFC invested heavily in foreign talent in pre-season bringing in the likes of ex-Belgium international Marvin Ogunjimi, former La Liga veteran Jaime Gavilan and A-League regular Adrian Leijer. But it has been some of the unknown Korean players who have been the danger men for SFC so far this season, and Kim Byung-oh has probably been the pick of the bunch. The speedy winger, while only scoring one goal and not providing many assists has been the catalyst to most of SFC's good play. He works hard for the team and defends dilligently, but when he is called upon to attack he can be a real nuisance. Despite his quite bulky frame (for a Korean) he possesses decent pace and it is something that he uses to great effect. He loves to run at opposing full back's and in the games I have watched SFC have always looked the most threatening when they play the ball out to him. If SB are to have any joy on the day they will need to marshal Kim Byung-oh effectively.

Marvin Ogunjimi is also someone that the Suwon defence will need to watch closely. The striker's signing made a lot of headlines in pre-season, and despite the decline of his career over the years, it was a surprise to see the once capped Belgian sign for SFC. He hasn't started many games this season due to a lack of match sharpness, but he has proved himself as a natural finisher. He doesn't do much to alter or influence the game, but when a chance does fall to him in the penalty area 9 times out of 10 he has worked the goalkeeper. He scored a sublime half volley in the last game and things could be looking up for SFC's star forward.

As I mentioned above, the worrying thing for SFC is that SB play in a very similar style to Jeju United. Both teams like to pass the ball patiently at the back, but then move the ball quickly forward once they get further up the pitch. Both teams also push their midfield far up the pitch and try to dominate teams from the first whistle. With SFC shipping 5 goals at home to Jeju I am sure that SB fans will be making the short trip across town with high hopes of punishing the SFC defence again.


If a person who doesn't follow the Kleague avidly looked at the current table they would probably assume that SB are having a terrible season, but this couldn't be further from the truth. As I have said in recent articles, Suwon's position in the table is a false one and it surely is only a matter of time before they start picking up the results that they deserve. They have consistently played brave, attacking football and in some ways are playing better, more composed football now than when they were 2nd in the table last season. Only FC Seoul have a higher passing rate per game and average pass completion rate than SB, and they are the 3rd best team in the league when attempting passes in the attacking 3rd. Their good play has certainly not warranted the meagre points tally that they now find themselves with. Most of that has been due to sloppy defending in the final 10 minutes of games, but some of it has to do with poor refereeing decisions. Which brings me nicely to one name; Kim Chong-hyuk.

Kim Chong-hyuk is the referee who officiated last Sunday's game at home to Jeonbuk, and from my point of view he made an incredible mistake that cost SB the game. Before I lament that mistake (in detail) I have to compliment the way that SB played in the 1st half because it was a great performance and one that deserves complimenting. In my preview for the game against Jeonbuk I commented saying that if we were to beat Jeonbuk then we would need to combine the defensive solidity that we displayed against FC Seoul with the attacking football that we have played thus far this season, and it is something that the team produced for a good 45 minutes of football. Suwon attacked Jeonbuk with every opportunity they got and only fine saves from Kwoun Sun-tae (earning him the Man of the Match award) kept Jeonbuk from being 3-0 down at half time. Added to that was a great defensive performance. The back 4 moved together as a unit and the midfield stuck to their defensive assignments dilligently. Jeonbuk really only mustered a couple of long range speculative shots in the 1st half and despite a few last ditch blocks from the SB defence Jeonbuk didn't really threaten the SB goal.

Then came the 40th minute and the referee's moment of madness. Having previously booked right back Shin Se-gye for a supposed foul in which a Jeonbuk player kicked the standing leg of the defender, he brandished a 2nd yellow card over the taking of a throw in. Now, I will admit that Shin Se-gye had moved 15 yards further forward than from where the throw in was conceded, but the yellow card was incredibly excessive and unwarranted. Not a single player had been warned about either time wasting, encroachment or infringements from throw in's in the game, yet the referee decided that the SB right back had somehow breached the rules and appeared to be very proud of himself as he sent the defender from the pitch over a nothing incident. Rules are certainly there for a reason and football would be chaos without the rules that we have. However, a referee needs to apply these rules in a realistic and sensible manner. Why couldn't the referee have just blown his whistle, told Shin Se-gye to retreat 15 yards and take the throw in? If he then chooses to break the rules again, then he does so at his own peril, and the referee can justly, and rightly send him for an early shower. If every rule in football is enforced stringently, to the letter of the law, then we will end up with 6 red cards, 9 penalties, 12 yellow cards and all the coaching staff sent to the stands, every game! Some people may find that entertaining, but, for me, it ruins the game. I love to see two competitive teams play each other with all 22 players on the pitch and, unfortunately, Mr Kim ruined what was shaping up to be a fantastic 2nd half.

Alas, SB went on to lose the game 2-3 but a standout performance from Kim Gun-hee was enough to appease the supporters. After his outstanding performance against Shanghai SIPG, in which he scored his first professional goals, I wondered if he would carry the confidence he displayed over into the next match and he answered that question with an emphatic 'yes'. For the first time in the Kleague he demonstrated the qualities that will make him a superb striker in the very near future. Once again, his touch and his inter-play with the midfield was there, drifting out wide when he had to, to allow Kwon Chang-hoon the space to play through the centre, but he again showed a selfishness to his play, often attempting to keep the ball and run with it. He never once stopped running, even when the team was down to ten men, and produced a superb bit of skill, dribbling past two defenders and squaring for Yeom Ki-hun to net a consolation goal in injury time. He's still not the finished article (I don't think anybody expects him to be at his age) but he is showing a little more of what he is capable of now and it appears that SB may have finally found their replacement for Jeong Tae-se.

For this game, Seo Jung-won may have a dilemma in choosing his starting 11. The majority of the front-line takes care of itself and if fit Kim Gun-hee, Santos, Yeom Ki-hun and Kwon Chang-hoon are certainties to start. However, the right side of midfield has been a spot that has been open all season now with Ko Cha-won and Lee Sang-ho rotating in this position and neither player really performing well enough to cement their position in the team. Jo Won-hee, who has played the majority of the season at right-back, switched to the holding role for the game against Jeonbuk, as Seo Jung-won continued to leave Baek Ji-hoon on the bench. But Won-hee is likely to switch back to right-back with Shin Se-gye suspended so perhaps Baek Ji-hoon could come back into the team. However, if Oh Jang-eun has recovered from his recent injury then he will definitely slot back into the midfield.

Quite surprisingly as a supporter of a team that sits 9th in a 12 team league, and with only one win to their name in the whole season, I feel extremely confident whenever I turn up to watch SB play, and that hasn't changed for this game. I feel that SB have the attacking weapons to cause an out of form SFC a lot of problems, and I really don't think SFC have enough fire power to really trouble a SB defence that has been playing well recently. As long as SB aren't on the end of another refereeing howler then I expect them to pick up their first 3 point haul since early April.

Score prediction: Suwon FC 0 - 3 Suwon Bluewings


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