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Recap: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-2 Sangju Sangmu

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors fans make their feelings known to the board in regards to the recent match-fixing allegations (Photo Credit: Matthew Binns)
With results elsewhere going their way, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors moved to the K-League summit for the first time this season after coming back from two goals down to defeat a ten-man Sangju Sangmu.

With FC Seoul dropping points against current relegation candidates Jeonnam Dragons earlier in the day, the Jeonju-based side would need to overcome one of the best military teams in recent years in order to take control of the title race. Despite being overwhelming favourites though, Motors certainly made their supporters sweat for it.

Choi Kang-hee named an unchanged side to the team that had beaten Melbourne Victory five days prior, the first time he has done so this year. With the likes of the in-form Leonardo starting, the champions would surely have been considered too powerful for their opponents today.

Sangju Sangmu started a team with a few changes to that which had been defeated 3-2 by Seongnam the week before. The military side chose to include Choi Jong-hwan, Lee Seung-ki and Park Joon-tae at the expense Park Jin-po, Lim Sang-hyub, Kim Dae-yeol.

As the players prepared to kick off, banners were raised aloft in the stadium's North stand as fans voiced their opinions on the recent match fixing allegations. Sporting messages that roughly translated to "Bribed men tell no tales", "Lee Cheol-geun (the Jeonbuk general manager) and Choi Kang-hee, you should do your best for the players who've worked hard" and "A red card for you conscience", the home fans were not happy at supporting and funding a club that may have undermined and deceived the league previously.

After a forgettable, goalless first half, the supportters would be treated to quite a contrasting second 45 minutes. Shortly after play resumed, Sangju were awarded a penalty after it was deemed Choi Kyu-baek had made slight contact with Park joon-tae. The resulting spot-kick was duly dispatched by Kim Sung-hwan.

Shortly after, Leonardo was judged to have been taken down on the edge of the penalty area, although replays showed minimal contact if any. The referee awarded a free-kick to the Brazilian winger and showed what turned out to be a second yellow for Sangju's Lee Yong. The free kick was wasted however as Leonardo struck his kick straight into the wall.

With ten men, Jeonbuk should have sought to capitalise on their man advantage. Instead, an impressive run down the right channel from Sangju's Park Joon-tae created a chance for in-form striker Park Gi-dong on the edge of Jeonbuk's penalty area. The forward took his shot well, doubling the away team's lead with a fantastic strike. That is now his sixth goal in seven games, also taking his league tally up to seven, a record haul for the player. How Jeonnam must long for his return from military service.

With danger of the game getting out of hand, the Jeonbuk manager introduced Lopes and Kim Shin-wook into proceedings at the expense of the ineffective Luiz and Han Kyo-won respectively.

It was the 64th minute when Jeonbuk finally got into gear. Leonardo, dropping back from his marker to collect the ball in space on the edge of the area, unleashed a screamer into the top right of the goal, making it his fourth goal in three games across all competitions.

If it wasn't for another Brazilian rightfully claiming all the headlines in the capital, Leonardo could easily be one of the league's and AFC's best players this year. After being benched at the start of the season for newer acquisitions, the winger has been in scintillating form with both his passes and his long range efforts.

Shortly after, Jeonbuk earned themselves a corner. Taken short by Leonardo to Choi Jae-soo, the left back then crossed it where it was met by a bullet header at the near post by the on-rushing Choi Kyu-baek. It was the young centre-back's first goal for the club and he looked delighted to have brought his team level after conceding the penalty earlier.

It is a tired cliche, but Champions still win games even when they do not play well. In this case, it was the substitute Lopes who would make sure Jeonbuk would take the lead in the title race. Found in space on the right-side of the penalty box, Lopes turned to chip the onrushing keeper and into the back of the net. After having not celebrated the two equalising goals, Jeonbuk fans broke from their 70 minute rendition of one song into delirious cheers.

Sangju did almost ruin the party in the 90th minute however when Kim Sung-hwan broke clear of his man in the Jeonbuk box only to skew a close-range volley wide of the mark.

Leonardo and Lee Dong-gook celebrate Lopes's eye-catching match winner against Sangju Sangmu
(Photo Credit: Hyundai_MotorsFC)
Overall, Jeonbuk will be pleased with the fight they showed in the last thirty minutes. However, it will be of much concern that it took them to concede two goals and have the other team reduced to ten men before they finally kicked into gear. All three of the home side's goals though were stunning, once again coming from the midfield and defence. Jeonbuk's attack may be faltering, but with the likes of Leonardo and Lopes in such form, Lee Dong-gook and Kim Shin-wook can be afforded further time to return to their goal scoring ways.

Sangju Sangmu should not be too disappointed. For large passages of the game they were better than the champions but once they went a man down, holding off Jeonbuk's attacks would always be a tall ask. The military side are scoring goals though and have one of the most in-form strikers in the league in Park Gi-dong. Despite versing a resurgent Ulsan next, they will go there knowing that they will be more than capable of putting up a fight.

Final Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-2 Sangju Sangmu

Highlights can be viewed on SPOTV's YouTube channel.

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