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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Gangwon FC

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors return to the Jeonju World Cup Stadium to face Gangwon FC. Photo by Howard Cheng

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors make their long-awaited return to Jeonju World Cup Stadium on Wednesday night under sombre circumstances. The home side will look to welcome an in-form Gangwon FC and hope to put a halt to the visitors' winning run.

(Photo Credit: Howard Cheng)

Cha Jong-bok

Any plans for a jubilant return for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to their much-missed home ground took a tragic turn last week when former scout Cha Jong-bok sadly took his own life at the stadium where he spent the majority of his professional career. News broke Friday morning that the scout had been found hanged at Jeonju World Cup Stadium. Cha began working for the North Jeolla club in 2002 and was part of the backroom staff during the majority of the club's triumphs.

Cha's suicide follows having been let go from the club last year after he was found guilty of bribing two match officials for favourable decisions in the 2013 K League Classic season and handed an eight month prison sentence suspended for two years. The club were subsequently punished, being docked nine points and fined last year, which played a partial role in the club being unable to obtain the league title. Jeonbuk would then go on to be banned from this year's AFC Champions League as a result, with general manager Lee Chul-geun later resigning.

Our condolences are with the scout's family and friends at this sad and difficult time.

Last Time Out

With the above news breaking just over twenty-four hours before the Jeolla Derby, the mood within the Gwangyang Football stadium was relatively subdued, with both sets of fans refraining from singing and showing banners of condolences for the first five minutes of the game, in addition to Jeonbuk supporters' usual goal celebration being halted as a mark of respect for Cha Jong-bok. This practice will also likely continue during Wednesday's match.


Jeonbuk would swiftly take the lead within the first minute via Kim Bo-kyung. Ko Moo-yeol met a Jeong Hyuk cross at the far post, cushioning the header into space for the central midfielder to lash into the net. Fifteen minutes later and the visitors had doubled their lead with Edu tapping in a rebound after the Jeonnam keeper Lee Ho-seung spilled defender Lee Jae-sung's initial attempt. Just after the half hour mark, the game was wrapped up when Lee Jae-sung made amends for his missed chance earlier by heading in a Shin Hyung-min cross from close range.

There was little else of note throughout the rest of the match. Jeonnam rarely threatened and, when they did, their chances were often cut out through the solid defending of Kim Min-jae and Lee Jae-sung or their shots were rarely on target. The closest Jeonnam came to a consolation was a 70th minute run from the league's top scorer Jair, but his shot was perhaps too close to Jeonbuk keep Hong Jeong-nam who saved with his feet to deny the Brazilian.

Worryingly, defender Lee Jae-sung would be taken off late on having sustained an injury and it remains whether to be seen if he will be fit for Wednesday's clash. Despite this though, Jeonbuk saw out a relatively uneventful second half and claimed all three points in this season's second Jeolla Derby with ease. Having won comfortably without Kim Jin-su, midfielder Lee Jae-sung and top-scorer Kim Shin-wook for most or all of the match, Choi Kang-hee will be pleased heading into this midweek fixture that his preferred options will be fully fit.

The result also sees the Asian Champions pick up their eighth clean sheet of the season. They are now one off matching last season's total of nine, which is further evidence of just how much the side has improved defensively this year, despite their lack of scoring prowess.

You can view the highlights from the weekend's Jeolla Derby here.

Previous Meetings

An uneventful match between these two sides earlier in the season at the Alpensia Ski Resort finished 1-1. An injury plagued Jeonbuk took the lead through a Kim Shin-wook header, only to see the home side equalise late on via Maurício from the penalty spot.

As for the history of the fixture, Gangwon have only won twice in 12 occasions, with the last victory being back in 2010. The Gangwon that will visit on Wednesday though will be of a much higher standard.

Team News

The biggest team news coming from the Jeonbuk camp is the return of Ricardo Lopes. Injured badly in the third minute of the AFC Champions League final second leg with ACL knee ligament damage, Jeonbuk have sorely missed their attacking right winger, particularly his pace, creativity, and his ability to find the back of the net. The Brazilian scored thirteen league goals last season, in addition to three in the Champions League. What makes it stand out further is that all of these goals came from the run of open play, unlike his compatriot and former teammate Leonardo who was often given penalty and free kick duty. He also charted in the top three assist makers in the team alongside Leonardo and Lee Jae-sung over the 2016 campaign. His influence was outstanding for his first season in neon green and the Jeonbuk faithful will be hoping he can return to form quickly to help boost the team in the latter half of 2017.

Jeonbuk will be without captain Shin Hyung-min however, who accumulated another yellow card in the Jeolla Derby making him unavailable for selection. He will most likely be replaced by either Jeong Hyuk or Jang Yun-ho in the starting lineup.

The Adversary

After a stuttering start to the season, Gangwon FC come into this game in red hot form having won their last five league games against a opponents ranging from second to twelfth. Their upturn in performances has seen them rocket up the league, with them sitting in third, just four points of first placed Jeonbuk. It seems that their lavish outlay on recruits in the winter transfer window is finally beginning to take effect.

Last time out, Gangwon lined up in an effective 3-4-3 formation with the attacking might of Maurício, Jung Jo-gook and Lee Keun-ho leading the line. Despite this though, Gangwon opened the scoring in sublime style via midfielder Park Yo Han. Park would dribble to the edge of the area and unleash a rocket that would never veer off its upward trajectory until met with the back of the net, possibly claiming one of the best goals of the round.

Jeju would equalise through some good fortune in the second half when Hwang Il-su found himself in the path of his teammate Lee Chan-dong's long range shot, accidentally deflecting it in the other direction, beyond the wrong footed keeper and into the net. Gangwon's good performance would not go unrewarded however, with Jung Jo-gook turning in a low cross from six yards in the 75th minute to claim all three of the points.

Highlights from Gangwon's clash with Jeju United can be viewed here.


Who To Watch

The former Jeonbuk man Lee Keun-ho has continued his renaissance of late at Gangwon, having appeared the most often out of any player in the K League's best eleven for each round. His goal tally may only be at three this season, but the wealth of experience he provides is evident on the pitch and has helped galvanise his team as they continue their ascent up the table.

Jung Jo-gook's return to the side has also coincided with Gangwon's impressive recent form. Famously the unlikely recipient of last year's golden boot, Jung has just the two goals in seven appearances to his name so far, but claimed the winner on Sunday against a Jeju side that look to be title contenders.

Prediction

Despite early season concerns due to lack of recruitment and injuries, Jeonbuk have kept control throughout this season and are rightly first. With key players having now returned from injury, plus a transfer window very close to opening, they look primed to pull away from the rest of the pack as we reach the half way point.

Gangwon FC are an interesting and tricky proposition though, but so often we have seen Jeonbuk step up this season when required to do so that I cannot imagine the visitors extending their impressive winning run any further. I expect a close to full strength Jeonbuk to cooly see off the threat posed by Gangwon.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 Gangwon FC

3 comments

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  3. A very well thought out opening comment.

    Well done, Mr. Binns.

    ReplyDelete

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