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Recap: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-0 FC Seoul

K League Classic Recap - Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs FC Seoul

In their first encounter since the dramatics that closed out the 2016 season, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors managed to continue their unbeaten start to the new season with a one-nil victory over FC Seoul, courtesy of yet another Kim Jin-su free kick. (Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)

A glorious spring afternoon saw just over 19,000 people visit the Jeonju Civil Stadium to witness Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors take on one of their biggest rivals FC Seoul. Whilst the home side's previous outing in their temporary residence proved controversial in terms of the lack of grounds keeping and stadium facilities, pitch conditions had improved remarkably for this fixture with ground staff being better organised than they were on opening day. The toilets were still outside however.

Jeonbuk opted for their fourth different formation in as many games, going with the 4-1-4-1 that had brought them success for most of last season. The surprise absence of Lee Dong-gook and defender Lee Jae-sung from the match day squad did raise eyebrows however, perhaps pointing to injury concerns. FC Seoul on the other hand went for a 5-4-1 formation, notably selecting Park Chu-young to lead the line instead of their top scorer Dejan who started on the bench.

With the narrative now well established and continuing on from last season, there was high hopes for an entertaining battle here, but tempers stayed relatively cool for the most part. Kim Shin-wook did seem to come off lucky in the fifteenth minute though when his his foul on Lee Seok-hyun only warranted a booking from the referee. The strikers initial challenge was ill-timed, but as Seoul's central midfielder looked to break with the ball, Kim Shin-wook would quickly push himself up to swing a clumsy and reckless tackle at the advancing Lee, bringing him to ground.

Besides this misdemeanor though, Jeonbuk just about edged the first half on the balance of play. Shin Hyung-min had came close early on with a low, driven shot from the edge of the area, but his effort curled agonisingly wide of the post.

Fortunately for the home side, left-back Kim Jin-su, fresh from his recent return to the Korean national team, repeated his antics from the opening game against Jeonnam, curling in yet another free kick before the interval, this time low and into the far bottom corner. With two goals and an assist in the campaign so far, the ex-Hoffenheim man has quickly established himself as a vital cog in this Jeonbuk machine.

With FC Seoul manager Hwang Sun-hong looking set to draw more criticism as his side's poor form continues, he opted to call on Dejan from the sidelines early in the second half, replacing Lee Sang-ho. The change seemed to have a positive effect on Seoul who looked the likelier of the sides to create something early in the second half, failing to convert a number of decent opportunities such as when Ju Se-jong found himself through facing Jeonbuk goalkeeper Hong Jeong-nam after a well played through ball from Park Chu-young, only for the midfielder to strike his shot straight at the keeper.

Jeonbuk manager Choi Kang-hee then also took the decision to change personnel, bringing Edu and Lee Yong on for Éder and Ko Moo-yeol respectively, reverting to the 3-4-1-2 formation he deployed at Incheon two weeks prior.

The change worked in terms of regaining control of the match, quashing any resurgence Seoul threatened to mount. As the game reached it's latter stages, it seemed Jeonbuk would be the likelier of the sides to score, with Kim Shin-wook and Edu both being presented with several chances to double their side's tally. 

There was also more than a fair shout for a Jeonbuk penalty when Kim Jin-su was barged over by Go Yo-han but in the end, the referee's refusal to award the spot kick did not have an impact on proceedings, with Jeonbuk ending the game as deserving winners. The North Jeolla side now sit in second place, level with Jeju on points but trailing on goals scored.

Jeonbuk will travel to Gangwon next weekend whereas FC Seoul are set to host league leaders Jeju in Sangam.

Attacking Woes

In a fixture that last year was clearly contested between the two best teams in Korea, and technically the two best in East Asia based on Champions League performances, Sunday afternoon certainly was evidence of how far both sides had fallen in terms of attacking performance in such a short period of time. 

Asian Champions Jeonbuk have scored five goals in this campaign, with four being scored directly from, or assisted by, a set piece. Furthermore, only one of these five goals was scored by a recognised striker. The loss of key personnel in the winter who have not been adequately replaced was of key concern coming into this season, with their absence being felt harder due to the increasing injury list the club seems to have. At present, Lopes, Lee Jae-sung, Lee Seung-gi, and new signing Mazola are all injured, with the absence of Lee Dong-gook and defender Lee Jae-sung from the match squad perhaps pointing to further fitness issues.

Still, at least there are quality players who will return for Jeonbuk over the next few months so there is no reason to be too concerned. While Hwang Sun-hong has also had some injury issues to contend with, FC Seoul's winter shopping has came under scrutiny since having sold Adriano yet failing to bring in anyone capable of replacing his goals. With the team now looking set to exit the Champions League, while also showing signs of struggling on the domestic front, it seems FC Seoul will need to work on their tactics to get the best out of what they have before being able strengthen in the summer, even though the winter window only closed last week. Fans will perhaps be hoping the team has not slipped too far behind the leading pack by that point though.


Match highlights can be viewed on the SPOTV YouTube channel by clicking here (Korea Only).

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