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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Ulsan Hyundai

K League Classic Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Ulsan Hyundai Round 19

After falling late to FC Seoul last weekend, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will look to restore their lead at the summit when they host second placed Ulsan Hyundai on Saturday evening in what will be Lee Jae-sung's (pictured) 100th league game for the club.
(Photo Credit: K League)

Last Time Out

Having gone the previous eight matches unbeaten, a ten man Jeonbuk fell to a 95th minute winner from FC Seoul's Park Chu-young. The game proved to be a relatively even affair, with both teams having a number of chances throughout the match to increase their tally. Seoul were unfortunate to be denied by the post twice, whereas some decent saves from Yang Han-been and some woeful finishing ensured Jeonbuk only claimed the single goal.

Seoul opened the scoring not long before the interval. Park Chu-young managed to find a way through three Jeonbuk players to Go Yo-han, whose shot was saved, with the incoming Park then shooting at the keeper again from the spilled ball. The second saved shot then fell to Yoon Seung-won who made no mistake on Seoul's third time of asking.

Jeonbuk would equalise moments into the second half however, with the Video Assistant Referee deeming Lee Seung-gi to have been pulled back in the penalty box. It allowed for Kim Shin-wook to fortuitously ricochet a penalty in off the underside of the diving Yang Han-been to score his sixth of the season.

Jeonbuk did look to gain some momentum in their search for a winner, but their efforts took a blow when two ill-advised challenges from Shin Hyun-min saw the captain deservedly sent to the showers early. After that, Jeonbuk mostly defended the onslaught from Seoul, but without cover in front of the defence, they were eventually exposed by Park Chu-young, who dramatically tucked home a corner in the dying seconds to give the home fans a memorable win.

As for Jeonbuk, supporters should not be too disheartened. While a loss to their biggest rivals will undoubtedly sting, the effort on show suggested it could just be put down to a one-off. If anything, there have been times when they have performed less admirably and come away with points this season. Besides, the supporters will not need to wait long for revenge as the fixture gods have scheduled a repeat in just three weeks time.



Highlights from Jeonbuk's 2-1 defeat to Seoul can be found here.

Ulsan Hyundai continued to stake their claim in this title race with a 2-1 turnaround against a strong Suwon Bluewings side. Suwon initially broke the deadlock after half-time with a low-driven rocket from Kwan Kwan-seong. The home side did not waver though and pulled level just four minutes later through a Lee Jong-ho header, although it was Richard Windbichler's mazy run and deflected assist that deserve a decent portion of the credit.

Lee then looked to have taken the lead through a stunning header six minutes later, but VAR was brought into play, controversially deeming there to be a foul some way back in the build-up. Fortunately for Ulsan fans though, they still managed to claim the three points after they capitalised on mix-up between Suwon keeper and defender, allowing Park Yong-woo to dribble into the box and slot past the keeper.

Highlights from Ulsan's 2-1 win against Suwon Bluewings can be found here.

Fan Behaviour

Before moving on to the actual preview, there is one gripe from the weekend's game that I feel deserves a mention. Surprisingly, given the high stakes that often accompany Jeonbuk's clashes with FC Seoul, Sunday proved to be a rare occasion where a number of off field incidents threatened to sour the mood.

Like other clubs in the league, a section of FC Seoul supporters regularly protest when facing Jeonbuk. They did so first for the then alleged bribery, and now for the underwhelming punishment they felt the Asian Champions subsequently received. Sunday proved to be no different, with home fans in the supporters' end lifting a banner that read "Bribery is a crime" at kick-off and later when the 95th minute winner was scored.

What makes is worthy of note for me on this occasion though is timing. To continue to imply that jail sentences need to be handed out, when the scout involved tragically took his own life three weeks ago after previously being given an 18 month suspended prison sentence is, at best, misinformed and ill thought out, and at worst, sickening. When local rivals have presented banners offering their condolences in recent weeks, for a fan base who have already significantly benefited from Jeonbuk's punishment to see this as an opportune moment to protest once again, and then proceed to use that protest banner as a means to display their late celebrations, is somewhat sad and only serves to reinforce an unwanted reputation that unfairly smears their whole fan base instead of the few.

Photo Credit: Jon Christian
Jeonbuk fans cannot claim to be angels however. As the dramatic winner was scored, Seoul goalkeeper Yang Han-been ran behind his net and cheered directly to the away support in a bid to provoke them, something he has also allegedly done in the most recent "Super Match" against the Bluewings as well. As expected, he received a torrent of abuse from a Jeonbuk support that had endured monsoon conditions all evening yet also a support who had previously not even considered the reserve keeper a figure of dislike or a target of jeering until he undertook such actions. It was very much a feeling of "Who exactly are you to the history of this fixture?" although I do admit I am paraphrasing slightly.

Sadly though, two projectiles were thrown in the form of plastic bottles towards the keeper, an action that cannot be condoned in any circumstance as the actions of a few individuals could serve to smear a whole support or worse, lead to bans on bringing in refreshments into the stands. For a league that already suffers from dire attendances, the last thing we need is an incredibly small minority ruining it for the majority.

Team News

Jeonbuk captain Shin Hyung-min will be suspended for his two reckless challenges at Sangam the previous Sunday, with him most likely being replaced by Jeong Hyeok. Kim Shin-wook may be replaced after a mostly ineffective showing against FC Seoul, but do not expect too many further line up changes.

Ulsan have no current suspensions and will likely line-up in similar fashion to how they did in their last outing against Suwon Bluewings.

The Adversary

Ulsan Hyundai have continued on an upward trajectory since crashing out of the Champions League, losing just one in their last eleven league outings, taking in eight victories over said period. It is a run that has seen them clamber up from the bottom half to being perched on Jeonbuk's shoulder in second place, just three points behind the home team.

More remarkably, they sit in their lofty position with a minus one goal difference. Ulsan are yet to win in the league by more than a single goal margin, with the goal deficit being mostly attributed to some heavy drubbings whilst they found their feet earlier in the season.

Defensively, they now look particularly sound, most noticeably when they comfortably kept out Jeonbuk in a goalless draw back in mid-May. The addition of Richard Windbichler has been especially astute, with the Austrian looking settled and assured in the Ulsan back four.

As often mentioned in my previous Ulsan previews, their team possess great skill on the flanks, particularly in the form of Mislav Oršić whose technical and dribbling ability, plus his eye for a cross are one of the major contributors to their upturn in form. This also neglects to mention that he leads the club's scoring charts with four league goals this season.

Second on the club's admittedly underwhelming scoring chart is Lee Jong-ho, a familiar face for most Jeonbuk fans after his season-long stint last year. It took a run in the side and regular minutes for him to find form in 2016, which manager Choi Kang-hee subsequently rewarded by purchasing an unfit Edu and casting the Gwangyang man aside. While he lacked goals, he often made up for in tenacity, chasing down lost causes and generally "getting stuck in". He arguably scored two superb headers in Ulsan's last outing against Suwon (although one was chalked off through no fault of his own), and looks like he is beginning to find his feet. A goal against his former employers would certainly help him continue on his path to fulfilling his never fully-realised potential.

Prediction

The home side need to get back to winning ways to ensure the result against FC Seoul is nothing but a blip and three points would also restore their six point margin at the top. Ulsan, on the other hand, are taking a variety of scalps on their ascent to the top and it would not be surprising if they find a way to breach Jeonbuk's backline. Matches between these two sides tend to be closely contested affairs however. In their last five outings, four have been draws (three goalless) and one a tight win for Jeonbuk. I will therefore go with the form book and predict another share of the spoils this Saturday evening.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-1 Ulsan Hyundai

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