Recap: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-1 Jeonnam Dragons
Kim Shin-wook played the hero with a last minute strike as Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors claimed all three of the points with a 2-1 win against local rivals Jeonnam Dragons on the league’s opening weekend.
The home side had initially taken the lead not long before the interval with a superb left-footed free kick from debutant Kim Jin-su after Kim Shin-wook had been fouled approximately 30 yards out from goal. The ex-Hoffenheim left back would send a curling shot over the wall that would nick the post upon entry, leaving Jeonnam keeper Lee Ho-seung scrambling from the far side of his goal to no avail.
Jeonnam would continue to look threatening however, finally breaking Jeonbuk's resolve in the 84th minute to look as if they would be leaving with a share of the spoils. Recently acquired Róbert Feczesin took advantage of Jeonbuk's inability to clear to send a looping header from a tight angle beyond the keeper.
The point for the visitors was not to be however, with the final ten minutes seeing Jeonbuk increase their pressure in a bid to find a winner and the home support increase in volume. When a pass into substitute Eder Luiz was cut out by the Jeonnam defence, the resulting ball teed itself up nicely for both Kim Shin-wook and Jeong Hyuk, but it was the former who unleashed his shot into the bottom left corner to send the Jeonju Civil Stadium into rapturous celebration.
Despite leading for the majority of the match, Jeonbuk often looked out of sorts, with their South Jeolla rivals most likely feeling hard done by given their own efforts. Jeonnam often created decent opportunities that were denied by some reasonable saves by Kwoun Sun-tae’s replacement, Hong Jeong-nam. The 28 year-old had been asked in the winter to step into the role from the reserves and, despite also having some near calamities within the 90 minutes, showed enough flashes of potential to see why Choi Kang-hee will stick with him and let him develop.
Jeonbuk had also opted for four debutants across the back line and it seems they also need to work on their discipline and understanding of one another, often putting their keeper under unnecessary pressure. It was this misunderstanding that led to Jeonnam’s equaliser, although it would be difficult to say it was not deserved.
It must also be noted that the home side looked toothless at times in attack, with both Lee Dong-gook and Kim Shin-wook squandering their few chances for the majority of the match. Wingers Ko Moo-yeol and Lee Seung-gi did not create much either, with Kim Jin-su's move into left midfield later on helping facilitate more effective ventures forward.
The absence of Jeonbuk's top assist maker for 2016 Lee Jae-sung was also significantly felt. One of the stand out talents in this team will be on the sidelines for up to two months with a fractured left fibular he picked up training ahead of this game.
With a difficult trip to Suwon next weekend, it was crucial that this new look Jeonbuk picked up the victory this weekend to ensure they keep with their rivals. With so many teams capable of competing for top honours in this year's K League Classic, any advantage that can be gained in the title race, regardless of how early, will surely be welcomed.
With so much being made of it in the build up to this game, it also worth passing comment on Jeonbuk's temporary home for the first half of 2017.
With renovations required to the World Cup Stadium ahead of May's Under-20 World Cup, Jeonbuk moved back into their old home from fifteen years prior in close proximity to Jeonju city centre, the Jeonju Civil Stadium.
The club announced the decision last December, yet preparations appeared to have only been visible in recent weeks, with photos from the club's fan day two weeks prior to the start of the season showing no turf had been laid. The build up to the game also showed that the pitch had been laid in patches and did not look ready to be played on by anyone, let alone top tier division sides featuring the champions of Asia.
The game went ahead anyway, and it has to be said that the pitch did seem to interfere with play, with the ball often bobbling along the surface and the occasional cloud of sand arising from when the ball thudded to it's surface.According to Facebook (Credit: jeonbuk1234), things aren't looking great down at Jeonbuk's temporary home ahead of Sunday's #kleague game pic.twitter.com/Qj1o75I2iF— Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns) February 27, 2017
While the turf was just one issue, it also seemed the stadium was ill prepared to handle spectators. For a game which saw just over 20,000 attend, the toilets within the stadium were locked and fans were required to head outside the stadium, ticket in hand, to a series of cabin toilets set up for the day's event.
With just under a month until the next fixture, hopefully these issues will have been suitably addressed. Given that game plays host to rivals FC Seoul, a match likely to also see a sizeable attendance, a repeat of Sunday's conditions will not be acceptable.
You can view highlights via SPOTV here (Korea Only)