Sangju Sangmu vs Jeonnam Dragons Preview
|Sangju Sangmu||Jeonnam Dragons|
|Competition:||K League Classic|
|Date:||Jun 19, 2016|
Just who exactly were those Jeonnam Dragons that took the field Wednesday night? Manager Noh Sang-rae made three changes bringing veteran defenders Hyun Young-min and Bang Dae-jong back into the side, as well as striker Bae Chun-suk. Youngster Ko Tae-won, Lee Ji-min, and most surprisingly Vedran Jugović were left on the bench. Aside from Jugović, none of the moves were all that surprising, but the way the team played most certainly was. There was cohesion, confidence on the ball, and some truly well worked offensive plays. There was also more than a fair share of luck that went the Dragons way, but they had a different swagger about them from the kickoff. Even the 19-year-old Han Chan-hee looked better in his second consecutive start. It could be said that it'd be difficult to look bad when you have 62% of the ball... but the Dragons still had to make the most of their chances and for once this season, they finally did. It'll be quite interesting to see who returns to the lineup this weekend against Sangju.
Just one little ol win switches the Dragons from "winless in six" to "unbeaten in three." Not bad for 90 minutes worth of work, eh? Jeonnam's two draws leading up to their shock win vs Ulsan Wednesday night changes their narrative to a team that hasn't lost a game since May 21st and have been slowly and steadily picking up points. More importantly, Jeonnam picking up all three points combined with Suwon FC losing to Incheon moved the Dragons into 10th place on the year, their highest standing in recent memory. Additionally, a win against a hot-and-cold Sangju side Sunday would likely see the Dragons leapfrog the Suwon Bluewings who are just two points ahead of them and have to travel to Seoul for the second Super Match of the season. It's possible the Bluewings will scrap some points out of that match... but not overly likely. So a Dragons win combined with a Suwon loss would see the Dragons in 9th on 15 points and very very quickly the top half of the table would seem plausible. Pohang currently hold down the 6 spot with 18 points and have to travel to the Jeju Fortress. A lot of ifs in there, but the shock win vs Ulsan may well prove to be the turning point in the Jeonnam season.
Only on two occasions this year have the Dragons scored more than two goals. Wednesday night in the aforementioned 3-1 win over Ulsan, and on a dreaded afternoon when they coughed up 3 goals in 10 minutes to lose to Sangju 4-3 at home on May 1st. Sunday is the day for the Dragons to avenge that forlorn day and return the favor of whooping up on a team in their own backyard. For all intent and purposes, this is a six point game between two teams looking up from the wrong side of the standings. Sangju will be looking to capitalize on their 4-0 win over 3rd place Jeju and keep momentum going. A win for the Army side would push them to an even 20 (8 points clear of Jeonnam) and possibly 6th place. However, failing to pick up a point and losing to Jeonnam would put the Dragons a scant 2 points behind Sangju and the race is on.
Even if this weren't the team that quite literally has the Korean National Army backing them, they would be something to be feared. While it's true Sangju have been up and down this season (as their 8th place standing would validate), they have an uncanny ability to absolutely unload on teams. They've scored 4 goals in 3 of their past 7 games (vs Jeonnam, Incheon, and Jeju) and have scored 2 or more goals in 9 out of 14 games this year. With that many goals to their name it should come as no surprise that they've scored at least 1 goal in every one of their home games. The Dragons defense has been in good form of late, only allowing 2 goals in their previous 3 games, so this should be a good battle in the Jeonnam half of the field.
On the other side of the ball, Sangju displays their hot-and-cold nature to the tune of 2 or more goals conceded in 8 out of 14 games this season. With that many given up, the mere 3 clean sheets they've held aren't exactly an astonishment. So the opportunity to put one in the back of the net will certainly be there for a newly reinvigorated Jeonnam front line. Unfortunately for the Dragons, 18 of Sanju's 26 conceded goals have come on the road. At home they're a completely different team and have a 17 to 8 scored to conceded ratio. This difference has led to 82% of Sangju Sangmu's points having been earned at home. In fact, Sanju have only lost one home game this season: a 3-2 defeat to 4th placed Seongnam.
Who To Watch
Former Jeonnam striker Park Gi-dong is tied for 4th in the Golden Boot race with 7 goals to his name through 14 matches. Much like Sim Dong-woon of Pohang, this former Dragon is having a career year and has already surpassed his previous season high goal total of 6... which took him 35 appearances in 2015. His name should ring more than a few bells for Jeonnam fans since he's the one that scored the first 2 of Sangju's 4 goals in the Dragons collapse game, and luckily he'll be on the bench after picking up his third yellow of the season in Wednesday's 4-0 drubbing of Jeju United. In his place, Sanju will be looking for Lim Sang-hyub to stay hot and pick up the slack. The former Busan midfielder has been on a strong run of form scoring in 3 of the previous 4 Sangju matches.
I'd love to be the optimist and say the Dragons can pull off another surprising win this week, but Sangju's just too strong at home.
Sangju Sangmu 1-1 Jeonnam Dragons
Who's going to win this Sunday when @JeonnamFC visits @SANGJUSANGMU in #KLeague? Preview: https://t.co/Uh53XuVARQ— Ryan Walters (@MrRyanWalters) June 17, 2016