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The #KLeagueFM17 Challenges: Citizens Unite! [FA Cup Final 16]

K League Football Manager 2017 - The Incheon United Challenge - FA Cup

Despite an underwhelming league campaign, Matthew Binns' has led his Incheon United to an FA Cup final against recently relegated Suwon FC and is now presented with the opportunity to be written into the club's history books. Can he prevail and bring the trophy home?

The Challenge:
Citizens Unite! Stand up to the Korean Chaebols by leading a citizen club to title glory.

Previous Instalments: Pre-season '16 [Part 1], Pre-season '16 [Part 2], March '16, April '16, May '16, June '16, July '16, August '16, September '16, Post-Split '16, FA Cup Final '16 [Preview]

It's match day and, as we set aboard our team bus for the 35km trip to Suwon, I am still not completely sure on my tactics. Despite outsourcing it to Twitter, I still think I should go with my gut to defend and try to steal an away goal on the counter.

It won't be the end of the world if Suwon FC win here, but it will certainly make the task of overcoming them in Incheon that bit more uncomfortable. As long as we focus on keeping Bruce Djite and Gavilan quiet, we stand a reasonable chance.

You can view the first leg below, or by clicking here. Scroll down for spoilers.

We opened the game by striking the crossbar within 30 seconds of play. Park Se-jik managed to find space on the edge of their area and rattle off a warning shot to the sparsely filled Suwon stadium.

Unfortunately, this is our most positive contribution to the half. We dominate possession but our play is limited to the central third. Suwon are also looking good. We are inviting the pressure as planned but our counter attacks never seem to transpire. Fortunately we head in to dressing rooms at half time goalless.

Clearly anxious from supporters' expectations, I feel the need to change something, anything. Unfortunately, my change lacks inspiration as I move from the preset tactic of defend to my other default of attacking.

Within five minutes of the second half, Djite plays through Gavilan who breaks the defensive line and shooting calmly past the keeper to give the home side the lead. Recognising right back Choi Hyo-jin as my possible scapegoat for this mess, I quickly sub him off and bring on Kim Dae-jung in a bid to keep up with Suwon's excellent left winger.

The change doesn't help, and when five minutes later Djite holds up the ball and lays off for an onrushing Gavilan to smash home, I can barely watch. Fortunately his ball is sent wide into the empty stands behind the goal, no doubt breaking a plastic chair upon impact. That was close.

In an attempt to try and close down the space Suwon are exploiting in the channels, I drag my wingers back closer to the defence, resorting to a 4-4-1-1 shape, and also instruct the full backs to not roam as far forward.

While it keeps Suwon restrained to long shots, it starves my attack and nullifies any chance of getting back into this. I introduce Kim Chan-hee for the ineffective Velkoski before also bringing on Jin Seong-wook for Park Jong-jin and resorting back to the 4-2-3-1.

The change immediately sees Djite send an ideal opportunity to double his lead into the palms of Cho Su-hyuk. We quickly counter via Song Si-woo. Kim Chan-hee is in space to the right but Song opts for support from his left from Lee Jin-wook. The left winger then switches to Kim Chan-hee who passes it back to Song Si-woo to shoot. I thought it was destined for the net, but their keeper makes an outstanding save to deny us. The game finishes 1-0 to the hosts and we now need to overturn a deficit in the second leg.

The score could have, and perhaps should have, been far worse. My need to dither and change most likely cost me, but it will also be the only thing that can save me ahead of this second leg.

I decide to stick to the 4-2-3-1 but adjust the player roles and mould the tactic to the players I have at my disposal. Ju Min-kyu returns to central midfield in his preferred deep lying playmaker role. Having not been able to play the last game, he should be fully fit and raring to, especially as the scout regards him as a "big game player". I include the disgruntled Kim Tae-su as central midfield and captain, hoping his experience and leadership may give us an edge. I also change the wing backs to some with more pace in a bid to keep up with Gavilan. Park Dae-han is designated the left side whilst Kwon Wan-gyu is given a shot on the right. Kwon has only featured for me once this season, and was responsible for leaving Adriano unmarked in last year's final. Hopefully he will take this opportunity to redeem himself.

I decide to instruct the midfield to play in support roles, with the purpose of playing through Velkoski who is instructed to play further forward. Suwon FC are apparently quite susceptible to through balls so having him play that slightly bit further up may make our heat map look less like a wall of fire in the centre of the pitch.

You can watch the second leg below or by clicking here. Scroll down for spoilers.

Things once again get off to a good start. Kim Chan-hee sends his shot narrowly wide in the 2nd minute after Ju Min-kyu's corner had been cleared. It may be very early on, but I'm already beginning to bemoan their exclusion in the previous leg.

The next twenty-seven minutes seem to pass without incident or highlight. Our crossing is not going to plan though, especially down the left wing. What's worse is that Velkoski is being marked constantly and cannot seem to make any headers. I try to mix up the method of cross delivery, hoping that a few lower efforts may find their target.

As we approach the half an hour though, we are given a lifeline. Ju Min-kyu plays a lovely ball out to the right from the centre of the pitch to Kim Chan-hee. Kim then sends in a low ball to Krste Velkoski who strikes first time from six yards out and beyond the keeper at the near post. The scores are level on aggregate and we have one foot back in this tie. We just need to make sure we do not concede an away goal that could all but kill the game.

We reach half time with the score still at 1-0. I tell the players that they should go out and seek revenge, hoping their selfish pride will motivate them seeing as the thought of doing it for the fans apparently does not.

Ten minutes in to the second half and we are offered a chance to double our lead. Kim Chan-hee breaks through onto the end of a Velkoski through ball but cannot hit the target from such a tight angle. Meanwhile, the performance of my two centre backs, tasked with ensuring Bruce Djite does not have a good game, is dramatically falling.

With this in mind, I decide to change it slightly, removing centre back Ahn Jae-joon for Kim Dae-sung. Seeing as our crosses on the left are also failing mostly, I introduce Park Se-jik on the left wing for Lee Jin-wook, hoping it will have a positive impact.

The change at the back does not do anything to stop my worrying, especially as three minutes later, keeper Cho spills the ball into the path of Djite, but fortunately the Australian sends his shot over. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, a fantastic cross from Kim Chan-hee is met by Velkoski but he sends his shot wide from just a few yards out.

We quickly come to regret that miss. Gavilan, the man who had tormented us so much in the first leg, is presented the ball unmarked within our area and he makes no mistake about scoring. Suwon have the away goal and lead on aggregate. We need to score two before full time if we are going to win.

With twenty minutes to go, Park Dae-han picks up on a loose ball down the left wing and switchs the play to the right. Kim Chan-hee meets the ball and drives into the area, coolly slotting it away to give us hope. Twenty minutes to score one more goal. It is possible.

Kim's hard work is nearly undone immediately when Djite picks up on a Kim Tae-su mistake and plays it out to his right. Lee Seung-hyun runs onto the ball and, with just the keeper to beat, is denied by an outstretched leg of Cho.

My response is to haul off an exhausted Song Si-woo for Jin Seong-wook and have two strikers to try and latch onto these through balls. With the orders to chuck everyone forward, I leave our fate up to the football gods and hope they smile upon us.

They don't and, after two minutes of injury time, we are eventually put out of our misery. Ticker tape flows from our own stadium to celebrate the victors. Suwon FC, relegated from the K League Classic, have won the FA Cup and entry into next year's AFC Champions League. I am beside myself. I grumble my discontent at the players and leave the stadium as quietly as I can, trying not to catch the eyes of any disgruntled supporters.

I try to look at it objectively. The FA Cup should have never been within our grasp, but to fight through as we did only to lose in the final to a team we should have been able to defeat certainly hurts. The season as a whole though has been slightly disappointing. Nothing much was expected of us, so to start so strongly in the league and have it tail off considerably, combined with this defeat, makes it feel as if we have fallen short. Despite our lack of budget, some form of rebuilding will have to take place over pre-season as we look to cement ourselves in the top half. There are flourishes of promise though, and if we can continue to nurture the young talent we've acquired and brought through, we should be more than capable of a better showing in 2017.

Thank you for reading this particular challenge. Whilst not yet complete, I will be putting this on hiatus for the next few weeks whilst we ready our pre-season coverage. It will return at some point in the next few months. That's not to say you cannot take part yourself though! If you'd like to try your hand at one of our challenges, fill out the very short entry form here.

Also, make sure to keep tabs on our Seoul E-Land columnist Steve Waddell's progress with his football manager save. You can read his most recent amusing escapade here.

You can now read the next part here.

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