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Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Ulsan Hyundai

Following the visit of K League 1's second-placed side Gyeongnam FC last weekend, Jeonnam Dragons face another stiff challenge this Sunday afternoon against the league's third-placed team Ulsan Hyundai in round 29 of K League 1. The visitors, who've only lost once in their last 14 games, have arguably been the country's best team over the past few months and will take some stopping on Sunday. However, the Dragons are in good form themselves and will be hoping that their never say die spirit under new head coach Kim In-wan can see them through once again.   

Game: Jeonnam Dragons v Ulsan Hyundai
Venue: Gwangyang Football Stadium
Kickoff: 4pm

Last Time Out

Jeonnam Dragons were involved in another nail-biter last Sunday afternoon against high-flying Gyeongnam FC. But, the game, which was packed with goals and played out in front of a crowd of 3,598 people in hot humid conditions at Palma Stadium in Suncheon city, ended with a scoreline that didn't really do either side any favours.

Despite being under the cosh for the first 20 minutes, it was the visitors who drew first blood, Kim Hyo-gi stabbing home in the 26th minute from inside the six-yard box after meeting Lee Gwang-jin's low right-wing cross. And Gyeongnam doubled their lead in the 40th minute when Kim Jong-jin volleyed Negueba's cross home from 12 yards out. However, in the second half, the Dragons once again showed their fighting spirit and got themselves back into the game. Second-half substitute Lee Sang-hyeon struck first for the home side in the 69th minute, side-footing the ball into the bottom left corner of the yet from around eight yards out after been found by Wanderson. Han Chan-hee's inch-perfect through ball nine minutes later put Lee though on goal once more and the 20-year-old sent the ball into the same corner, for his second and his side's second goal of the game, to level the scores. Unbelievably,  the home side were ahead just a minute later through Macedo - the Brazilian volleying the ball into the right corner of the net with the outside of his boot. However, with virtually the last kick of the game, Marcao rifled the ball into the left side of Lee Ho-seung's goal from just outside the penalty box to rescue a point for the visitors. Jeonnam, who'd missed a penalty and a host of gilt-edged chances (mainly through Macedo), and enjoyed 60% possession against the K League's second-best side, were understandably sickened.

Full Time: Jeonnam Dragons 3 Gyeongnam FC 3

Highlights: here

Ulsan Hyundai, meanwhile,  returned to winning ways, after their shock defeat to Incheon united in round 27, courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Pohang Steelers. Junior Negao opened the scoring for the home side in the 69th minute, chipping the ball into the left corner of the net from around eight yards out after benefiting from Han Seung-gyu's through ball on the left wing. And Lee Keun-ho sealed the victory in the 82nd minute - lifting the ball over Pohang keeper Kang Hyeon-mu's head from six yards out after the keeper had parried a shot his way. The Horangi (tigers) held out for the win and closed the gap to second-placed Gyeognam FC to two points.

Full Time: Ulsan Hyundai 2 Pohang Steelers 0

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

Jeonnam and Ulsan last met in the K League at Gwangyang Football Stadium on August 5th, with the visitors coming out on top 2-1. Lim Jong-eun put the Horangi in front in the 11th minute of the game that day, but Wanderson replied for the Dragons five minutes into the second half. Hwang Il-soo's 85th minute strike ensured Ulsan had the final say on proceedings, however.

Ulsan hold the better head-to-head record from the 44 games played between the sides, too, having won 20 games compared to Jeonnam's 11. The other 13 games were drawn.

 Team News

Long-term injury absentee Ha Tae-goon is still some way from full fitness, even though he has started light training again. And James Donachie, though injury free, was surprisingly left out of the squad last Sunday so he will no doubt be hoping that he can force his way back in to head coach Kim In-wan's plans this weekend. The Australian centre-back, has enjoyed a mixed start to his career in the K League and we probably won't see the best of him till next season. Jeonnam don't have any players suspended this week and Lee Seul-chan will return after serving his one-match suspension so the home side will be close to full strength.

The Adversary

Kim Do-hoon's men will travel to Gwangyang brimming with confidence after that hard fought derby win over Pohang last weekend.  The Horangi are now eleven points ahead of their East Coast rivals and seven points ahead of fourth placed Suwon, meaning Champions League qualification is looking like their's to lose.

Despite their brilliant form of late though, Ulsan continue to be vulnerable at the back, especially on the road.  They have conceded six goals in their three away games, including three in the loss to the Dragons' relegation rival Incheon United.  Jeonnam in the meantime, have scored twelve and conceded nine at home in the same period.  So on that form we may well be in for another highscoring classic on Sunday afternoon.

If Ulsan are to take maximum points from this match though, they will have to do it without influential summer signing Mix Diskerud. The American playmaker received his third yellow card against Pohang and so will serve a one-match suspension.  Lee Young-jae is likely to take his place alongside either Park Yong-woo or Richard Windbichler in the the holding midfielder roles. In front of them, Junior will be hoping to score for the seventh game on the trot, supported by Lee Keun-ho and Hwang Il-soo. Young midfielder Han Seung-kyu looks likely to round out Ulsan's attacking quartet after his excellent through-ball helped Junior break the deadlock last weekend.  Elsewhere defender Kim Tae-wan could make his first appearance in Ulsan colours since November 2016. The 29 year-old fullback spent the last two years at Sangju Sangmu, making 55 appearances and scoring twice.  Kim, who has a couple of league winners medals from early years at FC Seoul, will face competition for a starting berth from both Kim Chang-soo and Jeong Dong-ho.

So in terms of a prediction for Sunday's match, despite the absense of their midfield orchestrator, I fully expect an Ulsan win.  Jeonnam's best chance of points is if the game is an all-out attacking shootout, but even then there are few teams at the moment who can match Junior and co. in front of goal.  This should be an entertaining affair, but the most important thing, as far as Horangi fans are concerned, is the three points to keep the pressure up on Gyeongnam in second place.

- Dan Croydon

Who To Watch

Although Junior Negao struggled against Jeonnam Dragons the last time they met in Gwangyang, he still poses a serious threat for the home team. The 31-year-old Brazilian striker has 17 goals to his name this season and was a real handful for Pohang Steelers last Saturday. Junior's strong on the ball, a lethal finisher and often ghosts past defenders as if they're not there. More concerning for the Dragons, the six-foot-one-inch attacker is in a rich vein of form at the moment - having scored nine goals in his last six games.


Marcao's 93rd minute strike last weekend was a hard pill to swallow for the Dragons and Ulsan will be a big threat to the hosts after making a quick return to winning ways last weekend. Nevertheless, the home side don't make it easy for any team these days and thus I think this one will go down to the wire like the Gyeongnam game last Sunday.

Jeonnam Dragons 2 Ulsan Hyundai 2

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