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East Coast Derby Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Pohang Steelers

East Coast Derby Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs Pohang Steelers

Ulsan Hyundai play host to bitter rivals Pohang Steelers as the K League 1 sees it's second East Coast Derby of the season. With both teams coming into this match off the back of uninspiring goalless draws midweek, will they be able to up their game on Children's Day in the name of local pride?
(image via K League])

Game: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Pohang Steelers
Venue: Munsu Stadium, Ulsan
Kick off: Saturday 5th May, 2.00pm

Last Time Out

Suwon Samsung Bluewings 0-0 Ulsan Hyundai (Highlights)

This was the first of three consecutive midweek matches between these two K League giants, as they will face off in a two-legged ACL tie in the coming fortnight.  So last Wednesday was billed as a preview of what we can expect when they meet in Asia's premier continental club tournament.

Pity then that it was, for the most part, a drab affair with neither team really taking control of proceedings.  Perhaps neither manager wanted to show their hand too early, or maybe the brutal pre-Word Cup schedule has sapped the teams of their usual vim and vigour.  Whatever the reason neither side was able to break the deadlock, giving us no further clue as to who will progress in this year's ACL, nor for that matter who is best equipped to take one of the qualifying positions again come the end of the K League campaign.

Pohang Steelers 0-0 Incheon United (Highlights)

Pohang Steelers and Incheon United played out a nil-nil draw in Round 11 of the K League, which was the Steelers second consecutive draw and extended their drought in front of goal to four games now.

In this fixture, despite dominating possession 61% to 39%, the Steelers were unable to create any clear-cut chances against a team in Incheon who had conceded an average of over two goals away from home.

Instead, the team relied on some long-range efforts to attempt to break the deadlock. After a few wayward rangefinders, Jong Won-jin came close with a 30-yard free-kick, which was smartly turned around the post by Lee Jin-hyung in the Incheon goal. Just before half-time, the best opportunity of the game fell to Kim Jin-ya after a neat flick from Han Suk-jong. The onrushing Kim Hyeon-mu did well to block, and not for the first time Pohang were thankful to their keeper for keeping the opposition out after some less than brilliant defending.

The second-half followed much of the same pattern with Incheon threatening on the counter with Moon Seon-min and Pohang struggling to create. Song Seung-min created his own chance when he won the ball high up the pitch advanced on goal and made the Incheon keeper produce a good save. As the match was drawing to close Brazilian striker Gamalho, a 68-minute substitute, struck the outside of the post from distance, and so continuing his own personal bad luck in front of goal having missed a penalty in the previous home game.

by Ross Davies

Previous Meetings

The first East Coast Derby this season was only back at the end of March. But for Ulsan fortunes have changed a lot since then.  That 2-1 loss at the Steelyard left Ulsan rooted to the bottom of the league with zero points from their first four league games of the season. The only positive for the visitors on the afternoon was that they scored their first goal of the K League 1 campaign - a 78th-minute strike from Junior that turned out to be nothing more than a consolation.

Things could only get better for the Blues, and indeed they did. Ulsan have remained unbeaten in the nine matches since. Meanwhile, Pohang have only won one more game since then.

The Horangi can also draw confidence from the fact they are unbeaten in the last six derbies at home. The last meeting in August last year ended one apiece - Kim In-sung canceled out an early strike from ex-Ulsan forward Yang Dong-hyun.

Team News

With the home leg of the Champions League tie with Suwon this Wednesday night, it will be fascinating to see who Kim Do-hoon picks in this most important of K League matches.  How much the Ulsan manager chooses to rotate his team will be a clear indication of where the clubs priorities lie.

Case in point, Richard Windbichler dropped to the bench for the dress rehearsal at Suwon midweek.  The midfield linchpin is a big reason for Ulsan's turn around in form, so will Kim pick him for both this and the ACL game, or will he be wrapped in cotton wool ahead of Suwon's visit? Understandably Kim Do-hoon is keeping his cards close to his chest.

Who To Watch

Lim Jong-eun (Centreback)
Ulsan have been struggling for goals again in recent weeks after topscorer Junior joined Lee Jong-ho on the injury list.  The Horangi's continued unbeaten run, therefore, can be put down to their miserly defense.  And standout centreback Lim Jong-eun deserves much of the praise as he has played every minute after the loss to Pohang in March, during which time Ulsan have conceded only three goals in seven league games.

Signed from Jeonbuk last December, Lim took a while to find his way into Kim Do-hoon's plans. But after Lim made the most of his limited opportunities, the manager moved Richard Windbichler into a holding midfield role, and promoted Lim to first-team status.  His excellent ability to read the game along with his aerial ability make Lim an early contender for Ulsan's player of the season.


Ross' prediction: Pohang have been pretty solid away from home this year, only losing once, but the current goalscoring drought is a concern with a squad that hasn’t been rotated much this season. So the fifth game in two weeks may not be the best cure for this; how much Ulsan will be distracted by the upcoming midweek game may also have an effect on selection and the game overall. For these reasons, I am predicting a low scoring game.

Ulsan Hyundai 0-0 Pohang Steelers

Dan's prediction: So much will depend on who Kim Do-hoon picks for this game.  Ulsan do have a potential matchwinner in Mislav Orsic, but even he can't score whilst sitting on the bench.  Unfortunately, I think Ross has it right, this will be a low scoring affair. But I'm going to go for a home win thanks to a late goal from a set-piece.

Ulsan Hyundai 1-0 Pohang Steelers

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