Recap: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-0 Pohang Steelers
|Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors midfielder Kim Bo-kyung waves to the fans after his man of the match performance against Pohang Steelers (Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)|
A Performance to be Proud Of
Nearly every recap I have written this season, especially in reference to league games, have always been accompanied by the caveat that, despite being unbeaten and (now eight points) clear at the top, the reigning champions should be doing so much better when you consider their pre-season investment. This recap will not be an exception to this, which I will expand on further down. However, it is safe to say that this was the most champions-like performance from Jeonbuk on Korean soil this year, with the positives finally far outweighing the negatives.
Going into this game, Jeonbuk had only recorded one league win with a goal margin greater than two, against a struggling Suwon FC at home. The team has also accumulated nine draws (eight of which have been away from home) with seven of them being achieved from winning positions. Jeonbuk have constantly underestimated their opponents this year, which has arguably cost them 10-14 points, therefore stopping them from completely running away from 2nd place and the possible effects of KFA punishment.
Perhaps the champions deemed Pohang Steelers worthy of their attention. It definitely seemed so as both teams commenced play, with Jeonbuk edging possession and number of chances until Leonardo eventually broke the deadlock on 15 minutes with a shot from his favoured position on the edge of the area. Motors continued to press and create chances throughout the first half, with one particular link up play between Lee Jae-sung and Lopes catching the eye until the Brazilian was disposed just as he went to get his shot away.
This being Jeonbuk however, they went into the break leading by a single goal despite their dominance. With fans having been burned before with lost leads, it felt there was a lingering possibility of Jeonbuk ruing their missed opportunities. Any fears were soon extinguished though as Jeonbuk came back out more determined that they had in the first forty-five minutes, creating an excellent counter attacking move within two minutes involving Lee Jae-sung, Lee Jong-ho and Lopes but unfortunately, the final ball across the goal was just inches ahead of Lee Jong-ho to convert.
A few minutes later though, Jeonbuk's continued efforts were finally rewarded. A ball into box from Leanardo to Lopes was beautifully held up before being laid into space for the onrushing Kim Bo-kyung who drilled it past the keeper. The midfielder then doubled his tally on 55 minutes as Lee Jae-sung pounced on a weak pass from Pohang's Cho Soo-chul in central midfield, driving towards the penalty box and then laying off to Kim Bo-kyung who was rushing into space on his right.
There was little opportunity for Jeonbuk after the third goal who mostly played to see the game out. Pohang were awarded a penalty in the 95th minute, but it was poorly taken with Jeonbuk keeper Kwoun Sun-tae comfortably saving and keeping his clean sheet.
Overall, Jeonbuk seemed driven throughout the match, with a hunger from the outset. By playing Lee Ho in a defensive midfield role, it allowed Kim Bo-kyung and Lee Jae-sung to both push up and add to the counter attacks, while still providing plenty of cover at the back. It is a strategy that has not been played too often recently with the manager opting for an attacking midfielder instead to support a slower striker (see Lee Dong-gook) with Lee Jae-sung and Kim Bo-kyung taking turns to stay in the centre of the pitch. Hopefully Jeonbuk can now continue this performance through to their next three league games against Jeju, FC Seoul and Ulsan.
As mentioned above, Kim Bo-kyung found himself on the score sheet twice with two well taken finishes. Both goals arose from well-worked team play with the midfielder finding space for the ball to be laid off into so he could run on to it and finish. It is also his skill, awareness and his blossoming partnership with Lee Jae-sung in central midfield though that makes him such a tantalising proposition, especially when given the freedom to attack.
His return to Jeonbuk has been quite the success story, leading to numerous shouts for his return to the national squad. Based on his performance this season, you would think Uli Stielike may have to start answering their calls sooner rather than later.
After what has been a decent breakthrough season that has seen him called up for the Rio Olympics next month, Choi Kyu-baek finally showed his lack of experience yesterday, almost costing the champions a clean sheet and a potential headache for their upcoming fixtures.
With Jeonbuk leading by just a goal, Choi Kyu-baek made what was nearly a costly error on 28 minutes. A low cross in from Park Sun-ju should have been more than comfortably dealt with. Instead, the youngster lifted his foot up to stop it and let it roll under his boot and into space. Park Won-jae further compounded the centre-back's mistake by then not noticing an onrushing Park Sun-yong whose shot was fired straight at Kwoun Sun-tae. The danger was not over however as Kang Soo-woo moved into the space created on the edge of the area (from all the back-tracking defenders) to pick up the loose ball and play a pass/scuffed shot into Cho Soo-chul who swung at the ball but was denied by Kwoun Sun-tae had got close enough to push it wide. A defensive omnishambles originating by one centre-back's lapse of concentration.
Choi's night was summed up as he saw a straight red for an apparent foul in the central third of the pitch, although in fairness I am still not seeing the reason why such a strong punishment was awarded. With four minutes of normal time remaining, the centre back was deemed to have gone through the back of Yang Dong-hyun, with the attacker making notions of a dead leg (before getting up and walking away fine once the card had been served). It seemed a clumsy challenge, but not one worthy of a straight red card. I am more than happy to be proved wrong though. The incident is not included in the match highlights bizarrely, but has been uploaded by Jeonbuk Hyundai Photos Facebook group if you wish to view for yourself.
Were Jeonbuk Due a Second Red Card?
It should also be noted that seven minutes after Choi Kyu-baek's dismissal, Lim Jong-eun would foul Yang Dong-hyun again in the penalty area, yards away from goal and as the last man. It was an especially idiotic decision seeing as one centre back had already been suspended for the upcoming fixtures and, more glaringly, Jeonbuk were also three goals up. Surely this was a certain red.
Fortunately, due to recent FIFA rule changes regarding denying a clear goal scoring opportunity for the 2016-17 football calendar, a foul is awarded the card that is deemed suitable for the offence (ie. an attempt to play the ball, not a deliberate foul), with the penalty or free kick being the main punishment. Therefore, Lim Jong-eun's tackle was only deemed worthy of a yellow by the officials.
After a bad day at the office against Suwon FC, the Jeonbuk shot stopper was back in splendid form on Sunday evening. While his penalty save will grab all the headlines, his calm head when those around him were losing theirs in the previously mentioned defensive lapse of Choi Kyu-baek showed why he is such a valuable asset to the champions.
His most notable save of the night though came before any of this however. The 25th minute saw a corner into Jeonbuk's box met by the head of Pohang's Kim Gwang-seok. Having jumped in front of three Jeonbuk players to claim the near post header, the same three players found themselves blocking their keeper's view. Fortunately, Kwoun Sun-tae's quick reactions saw him save the ball for Park Won-jae to clear it wide.
Pohang Steelers Still Struggling On The Road
Finally, it is worth mentioning that Pohang were not as threatening as they had been of recent and, while some of that was down to Jeonbuk, some of it was also due to a poor performance from the visitors. A lot had been made going into this game that the Steelers were in form having beaten the likes of Seongnam, Ulsan and FC Seoul, but three of their four most recent wins (the three aforementioned) had been at home, with their away form paling significantly in comparison.
In addition to this, they also strayed away from the 3-4-3 system that they had employed so effectively against FC Seoul and Ulsan, opting for a 4-3-3 instead, most likely in a bid to stop Jeonbuk's attacking threat. While I can see the logic in this, it greatly limited their attacking threat, whilst also allowing Jeonbuk to overrun them in midfield. They would have perhaps fared better if they had persisted with a tactic that had served them well prior to this match against teams who are in second and third.
What do you think?
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|Game stats via kleague.com/eng | Watch game highlights here|