[Recent News][6]

K League 1
K League 2
FC Seoul
Korean National Football Team
Seoul E-Land
FA Cup
K-League Classic
Pohang Steelers
K League Challenge
Suwon Bluewings
Seongnam FC
Bucheon 1995
Suwon FC
Daejeon Citizen
Football Manager
From The Stands
K League Classic
Busan IPark
World Cup
Korean national team
Elimination Game
Asian Cup
KNT Women
Chungbuk Cheongju
K League All Star Game
Russia 2018
East Asia Cup
Qatar 2022
Power Rankings
Away Days
Club World Cup
Busan Transport
Inter Korea
North Korea
Ulsan Citizen
Yangpyeong FC
Asian Games
Chiangrai United
Cho Hyun-woo
Final A
Final B
Final Round
Goyang Citizen
Mokpo City
National League
Russia 2020
Winners Circle

Preview: FC Seoul vs Ulsan Hyundai

With just three games remaining and a four point gap between them and Ulsan, this is an absolute must win for FC Seoul. The Horangi's surprising back to back losses have taken them out of title contention, and likely shifted their focus to the FA Cup where they will face giant killers Busan I'Park. Seoul won't find a better time to play the team currently holding down the coveted third and final AFC Champions League spot.
(image via FCSeoul.com)



Drawing Defeat

Seoul picked up a point in the fourth and final Super Match of the year last weekend, but it felt a lot more like a loss at the final whistle. After a cagey first half that saw both teams create few true chances, Lee Yongrae got the scoring started for Suwon just six minutes into the second with a deflected ball that quite literally bounced off of him and into the net. It didn't take Seoul long to equalize, but the manner in which it happened was a bit controversial... as is nearly every VAR decision in this league. Suwon's Ko Seungbeom had a hand on the shoulder of a charging Lee Gyuro
and that was apparently enough to send the veteran defender to the ground in the box. While I would argue this could indeed be called a penalty by the strictest letter of the law (you can't hand your hands on a player's shoulder like that), it was admittedly a bit soft and – more importantly – the contact was made outside of the box. However, VAR would confirm the on field official's decision for a penalty, and Dejan made no mistake from the spot finding the back of the net for his first goal since early August.

The hosts went ahead less than 20 minutes later when Yun Illok capitalized on a lovely ball Ju Sejong put on the money while standing on the midfield line. Suwon backup Yang Hyungmo may want that one back as he was a bit frozen after initially charging out of the net, but it was a quality shot from Seoul's usual setup man. Everything seemed primed for Seoul to sneak away with all three points and leapfrog their bitter rivals into fourth place... and then VAR struck yet again. In the dying seconds of the game, Suwon's Kim Eunseon went down like a sack of bricks on what looked a clean tackle from Lim Minhyeok. Much like Seoul's penalty earlier in the match, this could be considered a penalty as contact was made, but if the first one was soft, this was downright mushy. Jonathan converted and the final whistle blew shortly after.

With two less than stellar penalties essentially cancelling each other out, this could be considered a fair result. However, Seoul bossed play for large stretches in the second half, and Dejan came extremely close to extending their lead on his own; even hitting the crossbar once. Regardless, Seoul had a glorious opportunity to move up the table and get in one last shot on their rival, and it just didn't happen. Leaving the point gained feeling much more like two points dropped.

Previous Meetings

Saturday will mark the 50th time these Korean heavyweights have squared off, and oddly enough neither team has much of a historical advantage. Of the 49 times the capital club and the tigers have faced each other, there have been 21 draws. Ominously for the red and black, 15 of those 21 draws came at Seoul World Cup Stadium where the two are set to meet this weekend. However, there's some silver lining for Seoul. True to the rivalry's form, six of the past ten matches have ended in a draw, but those that didn't were all wins for Seoul. Remarkably, Ulsan haven't picked up all three points against Seoul since a 2-0 home victory all the way back at the beginning of the 2015 season. A streak the hosts will hope remains unbroken this weekend.

More specifically, the last meeting between these sides on August 19th was highlighted by two things: missed opportunities for Seoul and perhaps young goalkeeper Yang Hanbin's showcase performance of the season. Yang both reaffirmed his rightful place as first choice between the sticks and possibly put his name on the radar for the national team. Of course the match ended in a 1-1 draw, but if not for Yang's heroics Seoul's unbeaten August surely would have come to an end. The second half of that match was where the shot stopper truly shined denying free kicks, attempted crosses, and wide open shots. Even with a less lethal version of Ulsan's attack coming to town this weekend, Seoul will yet again need a strong performance from the young man that's arguably this season's team MVP.

Three Point Stance

The message manager Hwang Sunhong should be sending to his men this week is very simple: just win. After dropping points last weekend, Saturday afternoon marks Seoul's last chance at keeping destiny in their own hands this season. A loss and 3rd place is an impossible to close seven points away with just two games remaining. A draw would leave mathematical possibilities, but still requires multiple other results to go right in order to climb the table. However, a win puts the capital club just one point behind Ulsan for 3rd or 4th place. Whether it's 3rd or 4th comes down to Sunday's match in Suwon where the Bluewings host 6th place Gangwon. If Suwon win, they will remain above Seoul in the table and could possibly climb as high as third if their rivals do them a favor and beat Ulsan. Should Gangwon pull off another away win, then a Seoul win sees the red and black climb to 4th with just a single point separating them from an ACL spot.

Convoluted story short: win and you have a chance at international competition next season. Lose and you're done. The win or go home attitude the team played with last weekend needs to be kicked up yet another notch Saturday when they host a struggling side there for the taking.

The Adversary

Just one month ago Ulsan seemed poised to make it a three way race to the finish for the 2017 K League title. Fast forward four weeks and they're winless in four and clinging to the final ACL spot. They do still have a ticket booked for the FA Cup Final in late November, but it's debatable if they're looking forward to facing the fearless Busan I'Park side that continued their courageous march to the Final with a win over Suwon Bluewings midweek. Having to knock off a red hot Busan team seemingly destined for silverware to honor their late manager, Cho Jinho, isn't an enviable task, but one that likely has much of Ulsan's attention. With the K League title now officially out of their grasp, bringing home their first ever FA Cup is a tantalizing opportunity that would end the season with a cup and a spot in ACL.

Perhaps it has been this distraction that's resulted in back to back losses for the Horangi. While there's no shame in losing closely contested matches to fellow Championship Round opponents, there is cause for concern in being shutout in said matches. Ulsan have been held scoreless nine times this season, but seven of those nine came before July. Only three teams have scored less than Ulsan's 39 goals this season, so low scoring is nothing new, but an unfortunate blight rearing its head again after over three months away is abhorrent timing to say the least. Led by the former Jeonnam Dragons duo of Lee Jongho and Mislav Oršić, Ulsan is more than capable of finding the back of the net at any time. However, those two need service and both Suwon and Jeju did a tremendous job of clogging up the midfield enough to deny Ulsan any such opportunities. If they're to break their duck this weekend, the battle won't be against Seoul's back line nearly as much as its midfield.


If Seoul come out of the locker room like they did against Suwon, then they should find a way to sneak at least one goal, and that may well be enough. This weekend is a huge test for Hwang and whether or not he can lead his team to rise to the occasion, or if they'll apathetically coast around the field as they've done far too may times this season. Though there's been no official grumblings from the front office, one has to believe a lot of Hwang's job security for next season is riding on this and the remaining two matches. I think more in spite of him than because of him, the veteran leaders on this team will realize what's at stake and do enough to get the win.

FC Seoul 1-0 Ulsan Hyundai

No comments:

Post a Comment

Start typing and press Enter to search