Writer's Chat: FC Seoul vs Suwon Bluewings, 2016 Korean FA Cup Final (2nd Leg)
Suwon head into the 2nd leg of the 2016 Korean FA Cup Final with a slender lead after an entertaining and open game of football last Sunday at Big Bird stadium. The 1st leg was full of chances but also full of wasted opportunities and both teams will be looking to improve their finishing if they are to get their hands on the coveted trophy. Here, our Suwon correspondent, Scott Whitelock, and Korea Racing's Alastair Middleton, summarise each team's chances in the final game of the Korean domestic season.
First up, Alastair asks and Scott answers:
Alastair: Well our predictions for a dull game were utterly wrong and the first leg ended up being very entertaining. Suwon were surprisingly good. What went right for them?
Scott: Almost everything went right for Suwon and in particular, Seo Jung-won. who made a couple of his trademark strange team selections. Despite Suwon's end of season heroics, the manager decided to change a winning team and brought Yeom Ki-hun and Yang Sang-min into the starting lineup, with Ki-hun's addition to the first 11 meaning Kwon Chang-hoon was asked to drop back into holding midfield. But the manager, with hindsight, made the correct decision with Yeom Ki-hun controlling the game and putting in a Man of the Match display.
Although it was an even contest, I think Suwon had the edge and deserved their win. They were threatening throughout whilst also keeping Seoul's danger men at arms length. Suwon defended from the front and didn't allow the Seoul players much time to dwell on the ball with their high pressing game. After allowing Seoul a couple of goal scoring opportunities in the first half Suwon were very impressive in the 2nd half, controlling the majority of play particularly after they went 2-1 up.
It was one of the rare days in Suwon's season were every player played as close to their capabilities as possible and every player worked hard for each other. You would think that Suwon will have to do the same again on Saturday as Seoul will surely go for Suwon's jugular from the off.
Alastair: Seoul weren't exactly intimidating on Sunday but are there any concerns for Suwon going into the 2nd leg?
Scott: I think Seoul were a real dissapointment in the 1st leg and not even the most ardent of Seoul supporters will have enjoyed what they saw. They lacked any creativity, looked slow and sluggish and were 2nd best to Suwon in almost every department.
However, there is a reason as to why Seoul won the league title and Suwon must not be complacent. Seoul still possess the best strikers in the league and in Ju Se-jong they have what I believe to be the best central midfielder in Korea. Despite his team having a nightmare at Big Bird, the midfielder put in a bright, combative display and was Seoul's only bright spark. His goal was neatly taken and was well deserved for his overall performance. He eventually picked up a knock that may, or may not, rule him out of this game but if he does play, his intensity and box-to-box running must be countered if Suwon are to lift the trophy come Saturday afternoon.
Alastair: What do Suwon do on Saturday? Sit back and invite Seoul to take the game to them or play more freely and go for another win?
Scott: Having finished the season with one of the worst defences in the K League, it wouldn't be advisable if Suwon were to sit back and defend a slender one goal advantage. And with the away goal rule being in effect, it only takes a 1-0 win for Seoul to win the trophy.
Quite simply, Suwon don't have the players to be able to park the bus and hope for a 0-0, so the only option is to attack Seoul. And after their performance on Saturday, why wouldn't they? Seoul didn't offer much by way of an attack, and Johnathan, Yeom Ki-hun, Kwon Chang-hoon and Lee Sang-ho created Seoul a number of different problems.
Suwon will inevitably come under pressure and the game will be decided upon those periods of pressure. If Suwon can roll the dice and allow Ki-hun and company to occupy advanced positions there will be acres of space for them to attack into as Seoul try to get the goal that they need.
Alastair: Who will be lifting the Trophy on Saturday? And by what scoreline?
Scott: I have said for a while, that although Seoul do have some threatening players, as a whole, I don't think their team is that special. Suwon went some way to proving that point in the 1st leg, and I am confident that they can repeat what they did last Sunday.
If Suwon score the first goal in this game then I can imagine them winning handsomely. However, if Suwon go behind first then it will be more difficult and it may take a late winner to get their hands on the cup. The tie is evenly poised, but I am starting to believe that Suwon can win the 2016 Korean FA Cup Final.
Predicted Score: Seoul 1 - 2 Suwon (Aggregate score: Seoul 2 - 4 Suwon)
Now, Scott asks and Alastair answers:
Scott: In a fast paced, attacking game, Suwon took the edge in the final and hold a 2-1 aggregate lead. Where do you think the game was won for Suwon and lost for Seoul?
Alastair: It was surprisingly open and entertaining but perhaps, given both sides had been twiddling their thumbs for three weeks we should have known they’d be eager to get on with it and actually have a game. They were both wasteful in front of goal but Suwon more so and Seoul will be grateful to get back to Sangam with just a one-goal deficit.
I don’t think Seoul underestimated Suwon but more Suwon lived up to their potential; you look at the core of that side with Yang Sang Min, Hong Chul, Yeom Ki-hun, Kwon Chang-hoon and of course, Johnathan, there is a good side there and it seems to finally be clicking. Suwon deserve their lead.
That said, both goals Seoul conceded were down to defensive lapses; Kim Nam-chun letting Johnathan get away for the first one and then Yoo Hyun (who will be suspended for the 2nd leg) somehow letting Yeom Ki-hun’s shot get past him for the 2nd and I expect Hwang to be working to make sure the concentration levels are higher this time.
Scott: Seoul scored an important away goal with the impressive Ju Se-jong tucking away a difficult chance. How important do you think that away goal will be?
Alastair: I hope it won’t be as it would be a travesty if Seoul were to win 1-0 on Saturday and claim the trophy by virtue of a tie breaker that became not fit for purpose once the back-pass was banned and the Berlin Wall came down (not necessarily in that order) but I digress. If you don’t score away from home, you are going to be living very dangerously in the return leg so that goal is Seoul’s lifeline. However, I fully expect Suwon to negate it by grabbing one at some stage on Saturday and then things could then become very difficult for Seoul.
Scott: After having labelled Dejan Damjanovic as the key man for Seoul, he had a poor game in the first leg resulting in him being substituted in the 2nd half. If Seoul are to overcome the deficit, how important will it be that he turns up on Saturday?
It wasn’t one of his best days, was it? Anyway he is suspended on Saturday (don’t get me started on accumulated yellow cards leading to suspensions either!) so it doesn’t really matter now. Hopefully Park Chu-young will be ok to return to the side and Adriano can return to form. I don’t think Adriano played especially badly when he came on – that late chance was actually not such a bad miss as it first looked – and he’ll be motivated to get on the scoresheet this time.
More of a concern is the injury to Ju Se-jong and overall it’s hard to know how Seoul will line up until the extent of the injuries becomes clear. Do they start with all three of Park, Yun Il-rok and Adriano? They probably do. While Dejan is always a player who is going to be missed more than most, Seoul have the personnel – and crucially Hwang has the ability to adapt – to overcome it.
Scott: I think Suwon's performance on Saturday surprised everyone, and has that altered your prediction that Seoul will win the cup?
Alastair: Suwon played freely last week when they were considered underdogs and what with the advantage from the first-leg and Seoul’s selection problems, they go to Sangam as slight favourites. However, knowing this may just concentrate Seoul minds a little more and perhaps lead to some Bluewings jitters. 2-1 to Seoul after 90 minutes and then anything can happen in extra-time and penalties. Possibly the stage is set for more Yoo Sang-Hoon penalty heroics. I still go for Seoul to nick it.
K League United would once more like to extend their thanks to Alastair for joining us to preview yet another K League clash. As well as his work with the Korean Racing Authority, he can often be found in various football stadiums taking in a wide spectrum of K-League action.