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Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Gyeongnam FC

The Jeonnam Dragons welcome surprise package Gyeongnam FC to Gwangyang Football Stadium this Saturday at 4 pm in round three of K-League 1. The hosts, who were outgunned by Pohang in front of their own fans last Sunday, will have to be on their guard against the newly-promoted visitors who have swept aside all before them thus far this season. Can the Dragons earn their first home points of the new campaign or will Gyeongnam make it three wins from three? Jeonnam columnist Aodan Halligan and Gyeongnam columnist James Edrupt preview this weekend's game.
(image via jeonnamdragons.co.kr)

The Dragons Last Time Out

Pre-game Hiccups

Bright sunshine, a chilly breeze and thousands of free bowls of jajangmyeon (noodles in black bean sauce) greeted supporters who made their way to Gwangyang Football Stadium last Sunday for the Jeonnam Dragons' first home game of the season versus the Pohang Steelers. However, organizers had clearly underestimated interest in the match as not enough stadium gates were open and fans were forced to queue outside for a considerable amount of time before kickoff.

The First Half
The game itself had no such hiccups and basically burst into life from the word go. In fact, it took just three minutes for Pohang's Ha Chang-rae to pick up the first yellow card of the game for a late tackle on the Dragons' hero from Suwon the week before - Choi Jae-hyun. And a mere two minutes later, one of Jeonnam's Brazilian contingent, ex Pohang Steelers star Carvalho Oliveira Wanderson, joined Ha in the ref's book after fouling Kwon Hwan-kyu by the touchline.

And this infringement proved costly as the visitors took the lead from the resulting free kick - Ha Chang-rae making up for that early card by out-jumping Dragons' midfielder Park Dae-han inside the six yard box and heading the ball past Dragons' keeper Lee Ho-seung. 1-0 Pohang.

It was a poor goal for Jeonnam to concede - reminiscent of last season - as once again they'd failed to deal with a routine high ball into the box. And Lee Ho-seung's positioning was also questionable, because he didn't come off his line after Pohang's center back Kim Kwang-seok had headed the initial free kick towards the six-yard box.

Nevertheless, the Dragons hit back immediately from the resulting kickoff as Wanderson atoned for his moment of ill-discipline,too. The Brazilian played a one-two on the left wing before sending in an inch-perfect cross to the back post to Park Dae-han - who side-footed a volley from just inside the right-hand side of the six-yard box into the bottom-left corner of the net. A superb equalizer!
The Dragons celebrating Park Dae-han's equalizer last Sunday (image via sportsseoul.com)
Two goals in the first seven minutes and the TV cameras were having trouble catching up as they'd been showing replays of the Pohang goal when the Dragons fired back. And supporters were still streaming into the stadium, but there was lots more entertainment in store for them.

The Steelers then went on the offensive following great work from Leonardo Gamalho De Souza. The 32-year-old Brazilian's defense-splitting through ball sent Song Seung-min racing clear and the Korean attacker rounded Dragons keeper Lee Ho-seung easily. However, just as he was about to pull the trigger from the left-side of the penalty box, Dragons' center-back Ka Sol-hyeon intervened with a perfectly-timed sliding tackle.

The danger wasn't cleared, though, as the rebound fell to Steelers' striker Kim Seung-dae, but Lee Ho-seung eventually managed to smother his shot.

Then the Dragons broke down the field and Wanderson whipped in a fierce low cross from the left wing, which found Park Jung-tae just eight yards from goal. But the forward didn't get enough purchase on the ball and it skidded agonizingly past the right post with Pohang's keeper, Kang Hyeon-mu, well beaten.

The two teams continued going toe-to-toe and Gamalho went close with a header before Wanderson shot narrowly wide. Surprisingly, though, when the referee blew his whistle for half time, the teams were still tied 1-1.

What a scintillating first half!

The Second Half 

The Dragons started the second half strongly, with Wanderson weaving his magic once more. The 28-year-old cut in from the left wing in the 52nd minute and laid the ball off to Jugovic, who played a first-time pass into Park Jung-tae. The attacker then forced his way past Ha Chang-rae and flicked the ball around Steelers' keeper Kang Hyeon-mu. However, Kang dived in two-footed and felled the Jeonnam forward, giving the referee no option but to whistle for a penalty. Amazingly, the keeper managed to stay on the field, though, picking up just a yellow card.

And this proved to be the turning point of the game, as Kang dived to his left to save Ha Tae-goon's low-struck penalty, and then, to rub even more salt in the wounds, made a stunning stop to his right to keep out the penalty taker's rebound.

Six minutes later, the Steeler's Kang Sang-woo put the Steelers back in front with a scintillating strike - his right-foot shot sending the ball into the top-left corner of the net from fully 35 yards out. Sensational!

And in the 80th minute, with the visitors by now well on top, their Brazilian forward Getterson finished the Dragons off with a beautifully taken left-footed half volley from an acute angle on the left side of the six-yard box. 3-1 Pohang.

In fairness to the Dragons, however, they didn't lie down and even managed to pull one back through their second Wanderson, Wanderson de Macedo Costa. It took the Brazilian substitute, who was making his debut for the Dragons, just 24 minutes to open his account for his new team - courtesy of a bullet header from the penalty spot that nearly burst the roof of the net.

The Dragons kept coming forward in the last few minutes but Pohang somehow just managed to keep them at bay.

Final Score: Jeonnam 2 Pohang 3. (You can watch highlights of the game here.)

 Newly-promoted Gyeongnam FC celebrating their opening day victory in K-League 1 on March 4th
(image via yonhap.co.kr)

The Adversary: Gyeongnam FC

by James Edrupt
Gyeongnam go into this weekend's clash in fine form with two wins from their opening two games and are full of confidence.  They also have the luxury of a full strength squad to chose from.

The Red's manager Kim Jung-Boo went with a slightly more defensive-minded line up against Jeju United last week.  In stark contrast to the starting eleven he selected for Gyeongnam's opener against Sangju, he dropped the very attacking minded Kyon Yong Hyun for the more defensive Choi Jae Soo.  I have a feeling he may go with a similar starting line up against Jeonnam to that he made last time out, bar of course forward Marcao.  He returns from his one game ban for the game and will lead the line.  Kunimoto was in blistering form last time out and he will no doubt play in his new role he excelled in last week  - the number 10 role just behind the strikers.

Ha Sung Min, the defensive midfielder, signed in the winter from Kyoto Sangawho will have a huge role to play this Saturday trying to keep attacking midfielder Jugovic quiet. 

(image via knnews.co.kr)

Gyeongnam Player to Watch: Marcao

Boasting a hundred percent record, newly-promoted Gyeongnam FC are performing well all over the park. However, the K-League's stand out player in week one, Marco (pictured above), is perhaps the player Jeonnam need to watch most this weekend.

The six-foot-five-inch Brazilian striker, who helped himself to both a hat-trick and a red card against Sangju FC in his only appearance of the season thus far, could prove a nightmare for Dragons' defenders as he's quick, extremely powerful and a clinical finisher. The home side, who conceded from a set-piece last week, will have to cut out crosses and devise a plan to stifle the 24-year-old striker. (Perhaps they should target his fragile temperament and get him sent off once again!)

Previous Meetings Between the Sides

Jeonnam and Gyeongnam haven't met in the league since 2014, when the latter last appeared in the top-tier of the K-League. In the four meetings that year, Jeonnam came out on top, winning two, whereas Gyeongnam won one and the other game ended in a tie. The Dragons also lead the overall head-to-head record: 12-7 (the other five games were draws). Can they extend that lead on Saturday?

Dragons' Team News

Brazilian forward Wanderson de Macedo Costa must surely be in line for his first start of the season after an impressive cameo last Sunday. The 25-year-old will probably get the nod ahead of Korean striker Ha Tae-goon due to his goal-scoring prowess.

Ha, who missed the penalty and the subsequent rebound against Pohang, could be used a lot more in away games this season because of his strength on the ball and his ability to play with his back towards goal. But Dragons' coach Yoo Sang-chul should start him on the bench for this tie.

And Jeonnam's 26-year-old midfielder Kim Young-uk may make the bench for the first time this season after recovering from a knock.

But unfortunately for the Dragons, Australian center-back Tomislav Mrcela is still injured. The hosts could really do with the six-foot-five-inch center-back with Marcao in town.  


Aodan: There's always a bit of needle when teams from Jeollanam-do and Gyeongsamnam-do meet and so there could be quite a few cards and goals in this.  I think Jeonnam's Wanderson de Macedo Costa and Gyeongnam's Marcao will both cause carnage, but the Jeonnam Dragons will come out on the right side of a five-goal thriller this time out.

Jeonnam 3 Gyeongnam 2

James: This game could have goals in it, as both sides have very quick and attacking minded players in them.  

Jeonnam 2 Gyeongnam 2

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