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FA Cup Final Writers' Chat: Ulsan Hyundai vs Busan I'Park (2nd Leg)

The Korean FA Cup 2017 2nd Leg between Ulsan Hyundai and Busan I'Park gets underway on Sunday 3rd December

Having fallen behind 2-1 in the opening leg on Wednesday night, Busan I'Park travel to Ulsan Hyundai for the second encounter in this year's FA Cup Final with the hope they can turn it around. Columnists Matthew Binns and Tomas Marcantonio spoke ahead of Sunday's season closer and discussed what we can expect.
(Photo Credit: Kookje.co.kr)

Matthew asks, Tomas answers

Matthew Binns: Some poor defending cost Busan in the first leg but a late rally gave them the slimmest of lifelines. How do you think they should approach this second leg, given that they will have to score multiple times against higher division opposition?

Tomas Marcantonio: I think the late consolation goal from Lee Dong-jun could turn out to be very important. Of course it doesn't change the fact that Busan need to score twice, but it means that another Ulsan goal won't put them out of sight. It gives Busan that freedom to attack from the start without having to worry about conceding; they will still need the two goals anyway to even things up.

It's certainly going to be a big ask for Busan to score twice in Ulsan's backyard, but it's not out of the question. Busan will take heart from their 3-1 away win at Jeonnam in the fourth round. Although Jeonnam were already struggling in the league by then, Busan will know that they are not a million miles away from the quality of the Classic, and Lee Dong-jun's goal shows that the Ulsan defence is not impenetrable.

MB: There were a number of changes to the Busan line up from that which faced Sangju Sangmu at the weekend, with the likes of Lee Jong-hyup and Kim Hyeung-geun absent from the squad all together. Who would you like or expect to keep their place for the second leg?

TM: I think most of the players who were rested can expect to come straight back in assuming they haven't picked up any injuries. Lee Jung-hyup will lead the line, Jung Seok-hwa, Ko Kyung-min and Lee Jae-kwon will come back into midfield, and I'd expect the two centre-backs and goalkeeper to change too.

I don't think I've ever heard of key players being 'rested' for a cup final before; of course it doesn't make sense out of context, but when you think how many minutes some of these players have played in the past couple of weeks you can understand the manager's thinking: keep things tight in the first leg, try to keep the tie alive and then bring the key men back to try and win the thing. It didn't pan out as Lee Seung-yup would have hoped, conceding two soft goals, but Ulsan's name isn't on the trophy yet. Hopefully the rested players will come back fresh for the second leg and make the tie interesting.

MB: Looking ahead to next season, whilst promotion was the primary goal and it has not been achieved, do you think winning this cup and having the lure of Champions League football could be enough to keep the better players at the club? 

TM: I think the trophy and the promise of Champions League football might just keep some of the bigger names around. Busan have a few players who have been linked with Classic teams ever since they were relegated: Lee Jung-hyup, of course, and also wingers Lim Sang-hyup, Han Ji-ho and Jung Seok-hwa, among others. These are certainly players who would offer a lot to Classic sides, but so far they have stayed loyal. With a third season of the Challenge on the horizon, you couldn't begrudge any of them a move away, but a place in the ACL might persuade them to stick around a bit longer. Unlike Suwon Bluewings, who will enter through the qualifying rounds after finishing third in the Classic, the winners on Sunday will go straight into the group stages, where they'll be up against the best teams and players on the continent. If I were a Busan player looking for a move, I'd at least stick around until summer; playing in the ACL might even give them a chance of a lucrative move abroad. This is all a big 'if', however; if Ulsan win the cup, I expect Busan to have a lot of rebuilding to do in the winter window.

MB: How do you see this second leg playing out?

TM: I correctly predicted the 2-1 result in the first leg, and I hope I'm right about this one, too. Busan have got absolutely nothing to lose by going all out and attacking from the start, and with a few fresh legs on the field I think they might surprise the hosts. Ulsan will score but it won't matter; Busan will score two and win on penalties.

Tomas' Predicted Score: Ulsan Hyundai 1-2 Busan I'Park (3-3 on Aggregate, Busan to win on penalties)

Tomas asks, Matthew answers

Tomas Marcantonio: Ulsan's second goal on Wednesday came on the break with Busan's defensive line at half-way. With Busan needing to score at least two, will Ulsan just sit back and try to pick them off with similar counters, or is attack the best form of defence?

Matthew Binns: Scoring first would certainly settle any nerves amongst the Ulsan Hyundai support but there is no need for the home side to expose themselves by coming forward unnecessarily. As you said, the second goal came when Busan committed men forward and there is no reason why Ulsan cannot adopt a similar strategy here with the knowledge that Busan will have to bring the game to them. Factor into this Ulsan's relatively low goal haul this season and it makes even more sense not to risk pushing up when they do not have the best track record of converting this season.

That said, if Busan do manage to find themselves two goals clear, it could be very hard for Ulsan to switch their game plan to something more assertive against what would probably become a compact defence. Kim Do-hoon's men will have to be well drilled defensively, especially if Busan plan on bringing a stronger line-up to the Munsu Football Stadium this Sunday.

TM: It's been interesting to see Lee Young-jae's development this year. Last year he was on loan at Busan and couldn't get into the team after a promising start; this year he was nominated for Young Player of the Year alongside Kim Min-jae. How important is he to this Ulsan side?

MB: It certainly is surprising how regularly he has featured this season despite only starting 13 times in a division lower last year but it is all credit to the player who has put in some solid performances this year and mostly retained his place from the first round of league fixtures. The central midfielder even got to see minutes in the Champions League and started in two crucial, must-win matches, which will have certainly added to his development.

His regular inclusion must also be taken in context of the K League's rules and regulations, which stipulate there must be a player under 23 in starting line up in order for teams to use all three of their substitutions. Despite this though, he has not always been the youngest on the pitch when starting, indicating that he is not just involved to meet a quota. While he will lose this advantage next season, if it was even considered, Ulsan would do well in continuing to involve and nurture such a young talent as it appears the promise is their for him to fulfil.

TM: This year Ulsan didn't make it out of the group stages in the ACL and their title push slipped away. Which areas of the squad will they be looking to improve this winter break for a better challenge next year?

MB: It depends if Kim Do-hoon keeps his job after this match as I personally lay the underperformance of this side at his feet. There are strong players across the best eleven which really should have fared better, but were in a system designed with too negative of a mindset. That said, and assuming that he stays, another capable striker would not go amiss. Whilst we touched on it in our first leg preview, and despite his goal on Wednesday night, Lee Jong-ho has failed to reignite his career to the degree he would have hoped in his first season at the club. However, the competition brought in to challenge him, namely Danijel Subotic has proved to be underwhelming. Subotic may improve with a full pre-season under his belt, but an additional presence up front with a reliable scoring record would still be useful. If Ulsan can qualify for the Champions League by winning this trophy, they should hopefully be able to attract higher calibre names.

TM: What are your predictions for the game?

MB: Despite being at home, I cannot imagine Ulsan will attack Busan unless they either have to or the opportunity is presented to them through a counter attack. With the pressure firmly on the away side, I predict Ulsan will wait for Busan to make a mistake and, while I do not expect the visitors to go quietly, I see the home side winning this on aggregate, lifting their first silverware since 2012, and qualifying for next year's Asian Champions League

Matthew's Predicted Score: Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 Busan I'Park (3-2 on Aggregate)

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