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Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Jeju United

Just four points separate this week's teams as Pohang Steelers host islanders Jeju United in a fixture which is likely to have a big effect on what half the table each team ends up in post-split.  While Jeju's slide down the table has been well documented with no win in ten, they take on an opponent who suffered a confidence knocking 3-2 defeat after taking a two-nil lead last time out. Jeju correspondent Branko Belan spoke with Pohang writer Ross Davis about this Sunday's game.

Last Time Out

Jeonnam Dragons 3-2 Pohang Steelers

Pohang took control of the 4th Posco derby of the season from the off. The Steelers were very effective in moving the ball, maintaining possession high up the pitch and creating chances in the first half; ending the half with five shots on goal to Jeonnam's one. They took a deserved lead in the 28th minute when Kim Ji-min headed in his first K-League goal to his obvious delight, after a superb cross from Lee Seok-hyun. The east coast side then doubled their lead in the 58th minute when in-form Kim Seung-dae broke away and finished high at the keeper's near post. The points seemed to be heading to the red and black Posco team.

The rest of the game holds true to the long held football adage about the most dangerous scoreline being two-nil. The subsequent 30 minutes were completing dominated by the home side who turned the game on its head.  The comeback began in the 71st when Han Chan-hee produced a neat finish from just inside the box after a series of blocked shots, in what was quite reminiscent of his goal earlier in the season against the same opponents. The dragons kept knocking on the door and unsurprisingly got the equaliser in the 85th minute when the impressive Heo Yong-Joon headed home after Pohang captain Kim Gwang-Seok had slightly misjudged the cross. From there on there was only going to be one winner and Heo delivered it with a great finish in the 93rd minute, although Pohang will be disappointed he was given so much space the place the ball where he wanted.

Pohang will do well to forget this defeat when the points looked to have been in the bag; this weekend's home fixture against Jeju will provide the first opportunity to do so, but it's hard to tell what effect this defeat will have on the team's confidence.

Highlights here

Jeju United 0-0 Incheon United

Coming into this fixture Jeju would've fancied their chances of ending their nine-game winless streak against a side who on their last away trip had shipped seven goals. However, it wasn't to be as the match ended with no goals, which is the fifth nil-nil this season and fourth in front of the home crowd.

In a game lacking clear-cut chances the closest anyone came to scoring was when Jeju's Kim Hyeon-uk struck the bar with a volley in the first half. Incheon number one San Jung, who has regained his place after the seven goal debacle, tipped that onto the bar, and was called upon again at the end of the first half to turn a decent effort around the post. San continued his fine performance into the second half by twice denying Tiago as the game petered out to an inevitable stalemate.

Highlights here

Previous Meetings

Historically Pohang hold the slight edge over Jeju in this fixture with 18 wins to 14. The islanders have picked up six of those wins on the road and drawn another three. One of those wins came earlier in the season when Oh Ban-suk bagged the winner in a one-nil victory at the Steelyard.

Jeju on that night were good value for their win as has generally been the case in recent meetings between the two. They have won three of the last five meetings scoring seven goals in those victories, but Pohang did come out on top in their home fixture last season winning 2-1.

Team News

Pohang have no suspensions and can welcome back Lee Sang-ki. Lee may come in at right-back so that Teixeira can be pushed further forward as the Brazilian looked dangerous when this was done away to Sangju. First choice right-back Kang Sang-woo is still out with an injury.

For Jeju it was recently announced by the league that the match between Jeju and Suwon Bluewings, which was postponed due to the typhoon which hit the island, has been re-scheduled for September 8th at 4 p.m.

In other news, and certainly of more pressing concern is the current coaching situation at the club.  With the recent decision of now former Suwon coach Seo Jung-won to step down from his post, the question which continues to be asked is when Cho Sung-hwan will do the same.  The team is not achieving results with him on the sideline, and it is certainly time to move on.

Two players who left the club to fulfill their military service who were very important in last season's surge to second place and an automatic berth in the ACL, Yoon Bit-garam and Ahn Hyun-beom, now at Sangju Sangmu and Asan Mugunghwa, respectively, have not been replaced with quality talent.  In fact, it is one of the reasons for Jeju's failure to compete for long stretches this season - they have not done enough to improve their team.  Lee Chang-min started the season very well, but has fallen off of late.  He did not earn a call up to the Korean national team for the World Cup in Russia, and it seems to have dented his confidence quite a bit.

Whatever the case, big changes are needed at the club.  This season has already become an afterthought in a number of ways, and it would not be a surprise to see wholesale changes in the off-season.  Although, perhaps, there is really only one change that needs to be made, and that doesn't take a lot to figure out.

Jeju team news provided by Branko Belan

The Adversary

With a draw against Incheon United last Saturday, Jeju's winless streak has now extended into double digits.  A trip away to the Steelyard won't help matters much.  Despite winning there earlier in the season, things are much different now, and the pitch in Pohang is a place they've only won four times stretching all the way back to 2009.

Couple that with the recent charge that Saturday's hosts have made recently up the table, and Jeju's chances of finally bringing an end to their slide are slim at best.  The result against Incheon marked the eleventh time this season that the team has been held off the scoresheet in league play.  While the top six is still not completely out of reach, it still may be well too late to salvage a season that, for many, is already lost.

By Branko Belan

Who To Watch


2014 Asian Games gold medalist Kim Seung-dae has been in fine form of late for Pohang, scoring twice in the last four games. The forward's breakaway goal against Jeonnam on Sunday means he is now the club's outright leader in terms of goals this season with six. While not an outstanding return, he is likely to at least equal his best return for the east coast side, which was back in 2014 when he netted ten times in the league, should his good form continue. Kim's goals generally come in fast transitions of play and often rely on composed finishes after breaking the defensive line like with his recent goals against the Jeolla pair of Jeonnam and Jeonbuk. Those finishes show that he is capable of bagging more and with the season coming towards the business end the team will rely on him to provide them with the firepower to see them continue their challenge for a top four finish.

Prediction

Jeju's form has been atrocious of late with no wins in the last ten in the league and with Pohang having sights set on the top four they will be keen to avoid another blip like last weekend's turnaround. They are also looking to banish the memory of their previous home game's heavy 3-0 defeat and so have added motivation to put a struggling Jeju to the sword this weekend.

Pohang Steelers 3-1 Jeju United



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