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Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Lee Seung-gi scores a hattrick last week against Gangwon FC. Will he be able to get on the scoresheet again this weekend against Pohang Steelers

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors carried on their march towards to the title thanks partly to a seven minute hat trick from Lee Seung-gi (pictured) against Gangwon FC in a thrilling 4-3 victory. This Sunday sees them head to a seventh placed Pohang Steelers in poor form and with increasingly little cause for motivation as the chasm to the top half widens. Is there any signs of life at Pohang, and if so, will they be able to prevent a motivated Jeonbuk side from quashing it?
(image via Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)

Last Time Out

Last Sunday saw K League fans treated to a seven goal thriller in Jeonju, with goals coming at both ends of the match with also a high speed hat trick and an attempted comeback in between. The visiting Gangwon FC came straight out of the blocks, scoring in under a minute to stun the home support. Lee Keun-ho broke the offside trap down the left flank and picked out an unmarked Kim Kyung-jung who slotted cooly into the net. As expected though, Jeonbuk's reactionary onslaught was intense, and fourteen minutes later the scores were level again. Receiving the ball on the left wing, Lee Seung-gi stepped over the ball twice, knocking it past two players, and shot brilliantly into the far bottom corner.

The former young player of the year was not finished there though, giving his side the lead when he struck a rather tame shot in the area beyond the keepers reach, trickling in at the far post. Moments later, his hat trick would be complete when youngster Park Won-jae (#33 as opposed to #19 who also plays the same position with the same name for Jeonbuk), back heeled the ball into Lee's path who struck from close range to give the home side a 3-1 lead. Edu would then add to this with a well taken goal before half time, dribbling around the keeper and placing the ball into an empty net.

With a three goal deficit to surmount, Gangwon came out in the second half looking to create. The club's top scorer Diego Maurício would pull one goal back for the visitors with a ferocious shot from a tight angle, beating keeper Hong Jeong-nam at his near post, although in fairness to him, there was little he could do to prevent it. With ten minutes left, Gangwon clawed another goal back thanks to last season's MVP Jung Jo-gook who headed in a Lee Keun-ho cross also at the near post. Despite maintaining pressure and squandering some other chances, the comeback was not to be, which was confirmed when Park Sun-ju saw a second yellow card in the eighty ninth minute, reducing the traveling side to ten men.

Highlights from Jeonbuk 4-3 Gangwon can be viewed here.

Pohang Steelers continued in their rudderless form, losing 2-1 to Daegu FC away from home in a match that notably saw three red cards. Pohang got off to the worst possible start, cocneding a penalty within three minutes of play. Keeper Kang Hyeon-moo spilled a long range speculative effort into the path of an onrushing Júnior Negão. Before the Brazilian could reach the ball however, he was has felled by defender Kwon Wan-kyu who saw a booking for his challenge. Júnior would dispatch the penalty with ease. The first half would also see this first of the sending offs, with Pohang's Oh Do-hyeon having been deemed to have knocked over his opponent with an outstretched arm to the Daegu man's throat. The decision looked harsh, but perhaps more understandable than what was to come.

The second half saw Wanderson equalise for the visitors with a low free kick from the edge of the area. The ball curled through the feet of Daegu defenders, beating the keeper at his far post. One minute later though, and Júnior had his second of the evening. A perfectly weighted through ball from Daegu's Son Joon-ho was met by the Brazilian who unleashed his shot past the Pohang keeper at his near post. Ten minutes later and Deagu defender Hong Seung-hyun was shown a straight red for what appeared to be an accidental clip when chasing Kang Sang-woo. The final minute would also see star Daegu FC midfielder Ceshina see his second yellow for kicking the ball away, although replays would suggest he did not hear the whistle for offside and was taking a shot. Overall, it was a strong performance from the home side, but a game in which questionable decisions from officials stole the headlines.

Highlights from Daegu 2-1 Pohang can be viewed here.

Team News

Jeonbuk should have close to a full roster to select from for this match, with no suspensions or fresh injuries to be concerned with. They do have a number of players one booking away from a yellow card however, such as Shin Hyun-min (8), Kim Min-jae (8), Éder (2), Kim Shin-wook (2), plus three players who have not featured recently in Park Won-jae (#19), Ko Moo-yeol and defender Lee Jae-sung. If one of these were to find themselves cautioned on Sunday, they would miss the midweek clash with Sangju Sangmu, something that might not be too bad of an outcome considering the current situation and form of the military team.

As mentioned, Pohang will be without Oh Do-hyeon after his red card in Pohang's last match. Kim Seung-dae will also be out of this match as he continues to serve his lengthy suspension for his red card at Jeonnam in August.

The Adversary

After starting in the league so brightly, the form that nearly saw Pohang relegated last season has returned, with the side slipping down the table from the lofty heights of the ACL positions to seventh over the summer. Were it not for the form of Jeonnam beneath them, and a reasonable cushion of points between them and the relegation spots, they may well have fallen further. Pohang are also six points away from the split with only four games remaining to sneak back in.

While they are still very much in last chance territory, Pohang's recent form would suggest that ship has now left the dock. They are winless in the last four, with their victory five games ago against bottom side Gwangju being their only victory in ten league matches. The Steelers have also only collected five points over that ten game period.

While the high scoring Yang Dong-hyun has still been reasonably prolific in recent weeks (six in his last 14 as opposed to nine in his first), Pohang's defence have been less consistent. Over the same latter 14 game period, they have conceded 26 goals as opposed to 18 for the former 14.

Pohang are more than just one player though, boasting the likes of Lulinha who has seven goals for the campaign and Son Jun-ho who is Pohang's highest assist maker with six this year, making him joint fourth alongside Jeonbuk midfielder Lee Jae-sung. Jeonbuk will have to keep eyes on both of these players if they are to not allow for an upset.

With Jeonbuk comfortably rolling over them at the Steelyard 3-1 in June, fielding a slightly weaker team on that occasion to add insult to injury, Pohang could really be up against it when they face a full strength outfit on Sunday evening.

Prediction

Pohang certainly need to show signs of life if they are to finish in the top half in time for the split, but it seems highly unlikely they will do so here. Not only have their best chances to stage a recovery now passed them by, they are facing a Jeonbuk side highly determined to be in the best possible position when the league enters the Championship round post-split. Given the way Gangwon were torn apart in such a short period of time last weekend, things could possibly get messy at the Steel Yard for the home side if their defensive frailties continue.

Predicted Score: Pohang Steelers 1-3 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

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