Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Gwangju FC
|Kim Shin-wook feels the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders as he scores the winner against Ulsan Hyundai|
(Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)
Jeonbuk Continue to See Off Threats to Their Crown
After an enjoyable match away to 2nd placed FC Seoul which saw Jeonbuk run out 3-2 winners, last Sunday saw third place Ulsan Hyundai visit the Jeonju World Cup Stadium. Having recently purchased a promising striker in Mendy, as well as finding strong form that has seen them become unlikely title challengers, the visitors were set to pose some serious questions for a Jeonbuk side with only one regular striker available; the misfiring Kim Shin-wook.
This was not to be however, with both sides creating plenty of entertainment for the neutral viewer. After an embarrassing (and rare) nutmeg for Kwoun Sun-tae at his near post saw Ulsan take the lead, Jeonbuk responded with two splendid goals (more on them in a bit) in two minutes to remind the visitors, and the rest of the K-League Classic, why they were recognised as overwhelming favourites when the season began.
While the occasion was soured by an injury time altercation that led to players from both teams scrapping and a bizarre red card for Choi Chul-soon, the match on the whole served as an example as to the consistency and determination in this Jeonbuk side. It will take something very special now for them to lose the title, but Motors must remain focused in these upcoming weeks to make sure it is put beyond doubt so focus can be shifted onto the AFC Champions League.
Match highlights from SPOTV can be viewed here.
Lopes One of the Signings of the Season
|Lopes celebrates another stunning effort to draw the scores level against Ulsan Hyundai |
(Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)
Joining the club from Jeju where he also had a successful season scoring eleven goals in thirty-three league appearances, the Brazilian has already surpassed the half-way mark to that total and you would bet on him to continue to find the back of net against any domestic opposition he faces. What is more remarkable is that his last four goals have come in his last three games, all against top six opposition in Jeju (1), FC Seoul (2) and Ulsan (1). This now brings his tally level with Jeonbuk's other top league scorers this season; Lee Dong-gook and Leonardo.
As he features on the right wing for Jeonbuk, this makes the feat more notable. What should also be pointed out his ability to assist, for which he has five in the league. This means he has now had a direct hand in 25% of Jeonbuk's goals scored this season, more than any other player.
There has been a lot made of Kim Bo-kyung as the signing of Jeonbuk's season, but the addition and impact of Lopes should not be undervalued. With Leonardo and Lee Jae-sung making up the rest of the midfield, they are a frightening prospect for any team they come up against.
I Wish It Could be Kim Shin-wook Day Everyday
|Kim Shin-wook celebrates scoring against his old club in dramatic fashion (Photo Credit: JTBC3 Fox)|
With the club having deemed the day "Kim Shin-wook Day" in honour of their winter marquee signing, celebrating with free wristbands, signed footballs, and focusing their whole marketing scheme around the player, Kim Shin-wook scored the winning goal against his former club in the team's turnaround.
Admittedly, my opinions have contrasted on the Wookie as the season has progressed. I have despaired at his inability to score when provided chance after chance, but have also praised efforts when he is employed in the right situation. I have even sympathised with him as ultimately I think he has been bought for a style of play that Jeonbuk are moving away from. However, I was delighted for him when his intelligent movement to latch onto the end of a Lee Jae-sung cross and slot home saw him score his second league goal of the season, his first being the opening day goal against FC Seoul way back in March.
It was hard not to feel for him. His facial expression upon realisation it had gone in was a cocktail of relief, redemption and unbridled jubilation. One Jeonbuk fan put it best when they said "It looked like the weight of the world had been lifted his from his shoulders". He looked on the verge of tears after being mobbed by his teammates in front of the stadium's cheering section.
With the shadow of the recently-returned Edu looming large over his place in the team, as well as the recovering Lee Dong-gook and in-form Lee Jong-ho (who was suspended for the Ulsan fixture) ahead of him in the pecking order, the stakes on him scoring were higher than ever. I only hope that this goal could be the lucky break that he so desperately needs.
|(Photo Credit: GwangjuFC.com)|
They are also the only team to have not visited Jeonju, with fixture rearrangements and agreements in preparation for Jeonbuk's friendly against Manchester City seeing the home round originally rescheduled to Thurs 28th July, before being moved again to this weekend after the KFA cancelled the exhibition game. It was originally swapped to ensure that Gwangju were able to have both of their home games on a weekend where revenue would have been greater and therefore not lose out through Jeonbuk's desire for a glamour friendly. With Jeonbuk having won all but one of their home league games though, Gwangju will be under no illusion of the task that will be facing them this Saturday evening.
Gwangju's previous game saw them make amends for a recent poor run of form (two points from four) with an unexpected yet convincing 4-0 win against fifth placed Sangju Sangmu. Admittedly, Sangju Sangmu were reduced to ten men with the scores still at 1-0, but this should not detract from what was a professional and ruthless performance from the southerners.
Jung Jo-gook also continued his impressive season by scoring his fourteenth league goal of the campaign in the drubbing of Sangju. Since finally moving from FC Seoul, the 32-year old is having the best season of his career and is responsible for nearly half of the team's goals. Having scored the equaliser the last time these two sides met, Jeonbuk will be well aware of the threat he is capable of causing, especially against their weakened defence.
Jeonbuk would be wise to also keep an eye on Kim Min-hyeok. The 23 year-old has been almost ever-present for Gwangju this season and has become a key part of the midfield make up since securing a move from Seoul last winter. 2016 has seen him score his first league goals as well as making five assists during the campaign. I imagine that FC Seoul are most likely regretting his decision to leave given their current form.
In short, I think both teams will score here, but I expect that Jeonbuk are probably going to score more. Jeonbuk's back line continues to be very obliging as well as being significantly weakened through the number of injured absentees and Olympic team call ups. However, with the quality of midfield and strike options available in Jeonju, fans have become accustomed to expecting the goals to come and I see Saturday being no different.
Despite Gwangju's recent win, their prior form had not been totally convincing. Whereas a month ago they were within the top 6, they have now been edged out with the gap opening up to three points. With just two wins since May (twelve games), I do not see them adding another this weekend.
Predicted Scoreline: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-1 Gwangju FC
Have Your Say
Who do you think will come out on top tonight? Please feel free to leave your comments below or contact me directly via Twitter. Also make sure to vote in our poll to gauge other people's opinions.
Gwangju are just 1 of 2 teams undefeated by Jeonbuk. Who'll win tonight? Preview: https://t.co/LAjWVNJDmA #kleague— Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns) July 30, 2016