Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs Gwangju FC
The 5-0 thumping of Hong Kong's Eastern SC on Wednesday night was a much needed, morale boosting victory for Suwon Bluewings. But although they have one foot in the next stage of the ACL, thanks to some assured and confident performances in the competition, they still lie in a precarious position in the early stages of the 2017 Kleague Classic season. On Sunday, they go in search of their first league victory of the campaign against a Gwangju team who are once again aiming to prove their perennial tag of relegation certainties. (Photo courtesy of http://www.bluewings.kr)
Last Time Out
In an interesting turn of events, a weakened Suwon team did what the full strength line-up has failed to do this season, and actually dominate a team for a full 90 minutes. Their convincing performance very much warranted the dominant score line and in fairness, the scoreline could have been more had it not been for a solid performance from the visiting goalkeeper, Yapp Hung Fai.
The game was a little slow to start with both teams struggling to find their feet, but midway through the first half Suwon began to show signs of what they could produce. Kim Jong-woo, who is now really beginning to grow into his new central role, made a couple of telling contributions, driving the team on with his dribbling skill and quick passes. Ko Seung-beom, who had moved from the left-flank to the right hand side, began to show his real skill and appears to be much more comfortable when playing from the right. His appetite and energy for the game was infectious, and it was his run and eventual chipped pass to Yeom Ki-hun that brought the opener.
And the midfielder, come full-back, was also pivotal to Suwon in the 2nd half, setting up another goal for Johnathan, and scoring a couple of goals with beautiful right footed shots from outside of the area. In total, the right wing-back completed 50 passes, scored 2 goals and provided 2 assists for his team mates, on his way to picking up the Man Of The Match award. With Kim Min-woo returning from injury, and thus able to fill the space at left wing-back, the right wing-back position may be more suited to Ko Seong-beom's talents, and there aren't many other players in the league that can match his energy or intensity levels.
The other 2 goals on the night came from the substitute, Johnathan. The Brazilian has had a mixed start to the season, and despite scoring 5 goals in all competitions, he has found it difficult to influence games effectively. But the game against Eastern was the first time chance that he and new signing, Park Gi-dong, have had to play near each other, and the duo of strikers appeared to be more effective when working as a partnership. Park Gi-dong's physical approach afforded much more space for Johnathan to move and he was alert to both chances that fell his way, the 2nd goal being a spectacular chest and volley.
The most pleasing aspect of the result is that despite regular first team players, Johnathan, Matthew Jurman, Damir and Kim Min-woo sitting on the bench, and the likes of Jang Ho-ik and Lee Jung-soo missing through injury, Suwon were able to field a team that could not only compete, but actually dominate their opposition effectively for almost the entire game.
However, this result should not be over estimated. Eastern are a professional team, but they do not boast the same resources and history as Suwon. They also offered very little in attack, and Suwon's weaknesses mainly lie at the back and not in the forward positions. Sterner challenges will come for this Suwon team, but they finally showed a little of what they are capable of.
Despite sitting only one place above Suwon in the Classic table, Gwangju have had a fairly solid start to the season. A win against Daegu on the opening day of the season has been followed up with respectable draws against high flying Jeju and Ulsan. Added to that was an impressive performance away to Seoul, which would have resulted in at least another draw had it not been for horrendous refereeing decisions.
Their brand of possession and passing football has not been easy on the eye and the amount of goal scoring opportunities they produce is low, even for a Kleague team. But their low tempo and conservative style has proved difficult to play against for every team they have faced this season and I imagine that Suwon will find this no different.
Undoubtedly, the two major threats for Gwangju are Cho Sung-jin and Cho Ju-yong who have combined to score all of Gwangju's goal this season. After the loss of the Kleague player of the year, Jung Jo-gook over the winter, many people predicted that Gwangju would struggle this season, but they appear to have found a useful replacement in the form of Cho Ju-yong, and the 6 foot plus striker is really proving his value to the team in only his 2nd season as a professional. He has already equaled his goal tally of last season and big things will be expected of the young forward if Gwangju are to survive relegation this year.
On paper, this should be a game that Suwon should win fairly comfortably. And if the manager chooses a strong starting line-up, with players paying in comfortable positions to match their skill sets and the key players all perform to their capabilities, Suwon will win this game fairly comfortably. However, all 3 of those things rarely happen at the same time for Suwon and they tend to struggle when at least one of those scenarios don't play out.
Seo Jung-won should have seen enough from Wednesday's night hammering of Eastern to know that both Johnathan and Park Gi-dong should be playing alongside each other in a 2 striker formation. Opposition teams have found it too easy to defend against Johnathan, playing as a lone striker, this season, and the talented Brazilian showed exactly what he is capable of when given space against a tiring Eastern team.
If Suwon are to claim their first league victory of the season they will need to display all the characteristics that they showed in their midweek victory, but will also need all their key players back soon. With a tough period away from home coming up, it is vital that Suwon kick start their season now. Whether they can do that against a tough and resilient Gwangju side remains to be seen.
Predicted Score: Suwon 1 - 1 Gwangju