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The Road to the 2016 Korean FA Cup Final














(The Korean FA Cup trophy. Photo courtesy of www.bluewings.co.kr)

After a long and hard season it is almost fitting that the final game of the Korean season would be a 'Super Match' 2-legged final for the 2016 Korean FA Cup, played between the two old rivals, Suwon Bluewings and FC Seoul. Whereas Suwon have had a largely deflating season, flirting with relegation for most of it, FC Seoul claimed their first leauge title since 2012 and are now aiming to win their first ever league and FA Cup double. Here, we take a brief look at both teams journeys to the final.

4th round

After 3 rounds of competition between amateur, semi-pro, university and K League Challenge teams, the big boys of K League Classic entered the competition in round 4, and Suwon and Seoul were both handed favourable draws, each with a home game against lower league opposition.

Suwon overcame National League team Gyeongju HNP by a single goal, winning 1-0. Seo Jung-won almost completely rotated his entire first 11 for the game, with only Yeom Ki-hun retaining his place, and Suwon struggled throughout. Suwon struggled to break down a gutsy Gyeongju team who had their own moments to win the game. Unfortunately for Gyeongju, they just didn't have quite enough quality in the final third to really trouble Suwon.

Seoul also had a tough time in their opening game, requiring extra time to beat Daegu 4-2. Daegu took a deserved 1-0 lead into half time after some neat one touch passing found Brazilian forward Cesinha with space. Daegu picked up the 2nd half were they left off and were 2-0 ahead after 51 minutes when the Brazilian scored his 2nd of the night with a neat tap in from 5 yards out. However, it was the introduction of Seoul's Brazilian, Adriano, that changed the game. The striker scored all 4 goals as Seoul eventually eased to a victory in extra time.

5th round

Both teams were again handed home ties against lower division opposition as Suwon came up against Busan and Seoul faced Ansan Mugunghwa.

Suwon again heavily rotated their starting 11 with Lee Sang-ho, Santos and Kwak Hee-ju the only senior players being used in the starting 11. Suwon struggled against the K League Challenge team but an early Santos goal was the difference between 2 teams that were lacking any attacking threat.

FC Seoul also struggled against their Challenge opponents despite taking the lead midway through the first half. Ansan pressured their opponents throughout the 2nd half and were unlucky not to score 2 or 3 goals before Seoul scored their 2nd of the game on the 55th minute. Ansan scored the goal they deserved with 15 minutes left to play but FC Seoul had enough in their locker to hold on and progress to the quarter finals.

Quarter Final

Both teams were finally handed tough games when Suwon were drawn at home to local rivals Seongnam, and Seoul were drawn against Jeonnam. And both teams required extra time and penalties to make it through to the semi-finals.

Seo Jung-won belatedly began to take the competition seriously and fielded a team that was as close to full strength as possible, and they started brightly forcing Seongnam back and attacking with purpose. A moment of madness from the referee reduced both teams to ten men in the 19th minute, when what could only be described as a scuffle in the box resulted in Lee Jong-sung and Kim Tae-youn being, inexplicably, shown red cards. After that, the game really opened up and it wasn't long before Suwon profited when Ko Cha-won scored to put the home side ahead. However, yet another moment of madness, this time from Suwon's Koo Ja-ryoung, swung the game in Seongnam's favour, as the young centre back needlessly picked up his 2nd booking on the stroke of half time leaving Suwon with only 9 players. Suwon defended valiantly and it looked like they might pull off an unlikely victory until Seongnam's Garcia scored an equaliser with only 6 minutes left to play. The game went to extra-time but with both sides looking exhausted the game petered out into a draw and penalties were required to settle the tie. Suwon's backup goalkeeper, Yang Hyung-mo was the star of the show, saving 2 penalties to give Suwon a backs to the wall win and send them through to the semi finals.

Seoul also laboured in their victory against Jeonnam despite naming a strong starting lineup. An uneventful game passed by and penalties were required to decided the tie. 3 out of 3 penalties were dispatched by either side before Jeonnam's Jugovic blazed his spot-kick high and wide. Seoul scored the following kick leaving Jeonnam needing to score the next kick to stay in the tie. But Seoul's Yoo Sang-hoon produced a marvelous save to propel his team into the semi-finals.

Semi Final
After having recieved a favourable draw in all the preceding rounds, Suwon were finally handed a tough one when they drawn away to Ulsan. Whereas Seoul were probably handed their easiest game of the competition coming up against Bucheon at home.

Suwon traveled to Ulsan with a full strength team and in a decent run of form, but the first half was uneventful. That was until they were the on the end of some more terrible refereeing, when in the 39th minute the referee deemed that Kwak Kwang-seon had pushed an Ulsan attacker in the box, despite replays clearly showing there was minimal contact. Ivan Kovacec stepped up and scored the resulting penalty to put the home side ahead. The second half was almost exclusively played in the Ulsan half, as the home side looked to defend their lead rather than extend it. And it appeared that they would do that, until the 81st minute when an unmarked Johnathan was able to head in at the back post to equalise for Suwon. As Ulsan pushed to try and find a winner they were hit with a suckerpunch in the 92nd minute when again, in almost a carbon copy of the 1st goal, Johnathan found space at the back post and nodded in to send the travling fans crazy. And Suwon confirmed their place in the final, when a quick break left Kwon Chang-hoon with time and space to score a 3rd and round off an improbable fight back from Suwon.

Seoul, on the other hand, had a fairly easy passage through to the final, despite Bucheon matching their opponents for desire and work-rate, the Challenge team didn't create enough opportunities. An early goal, after 7 minutes, from Dejan Damjanovic was enough to settle the tie and set up an intriguing final between two old foes. 

Final

The 2016 Korean FA Cup Final will be played over two legs. The dates and location of the games are as follows:

1st Leg
Suwon Bluewings vs FC Seoul 
Suwon World Cup Stadium - 27th November 2016

2nd Leg
FC Seoul vs Suwon Bluewings
Seoul World Cup Stadium - 3rd December 2016

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