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Playoff Writers' Chat: Daejeon Citizen vs Gwangju FC

Playoff Writers' Chat: Daejeon Citizen vs Gwangju FC K League 2
Fourth-placed Daejeon Citizen will host fifth-placed Gwangju FC for the K League 2 Promotion Semifinal this Wednesday. Gwangju have playoff experience having secured a place in the top flight in 2014. The Purples, however, will be hoping that their first foray into the K League 2 post-season will be a successful one. Ahead of Wednesday's huge clash, columnists Paul Neat and Peter Hampshire sat down to discuss each team's chances.

Paul Neat Asks, Peter Hampshire Answers

Paul Neat: Given that Gwangju simply have to win, how do you foresee the manager setting the team up and which players will be seen as key in trying to execute his game plan?

Peter Hampshire: It will be Park Jinseop’s first foray into the playoffs as manager as he looks for an unexpected bonus after a mediocre first season in charge of the Yellows. As eluded to by players in the build-up, the whole Gwangju squad know that this fixture represents a do-or-die game. Scoring in the first 20 minutes of their previous three matches they have shown they are adept at flying out of the blocks and can be hard to stop on their day.

Gwangju certainly haven’t taken a build from the back approach in recent months with the 4-0 demolition of Ansan representing a first clean sheet since September. It would seem implausible that they will start taking a defensive mentality now. With Daejeon being so strong in central midfield, I would suggest Park Jinseop will look to play it wide and get quality deliveries into the box for Felipe to try and dominate the aerial battles. With his core strength and hold-up play, Felipe can also provide an outlet on the counter should Gwangju score early yet again and look to sit back on their lead.

Playoff Writers' Chat: Daejeon Citizen vs Gwangju FC K League 2 Felipe

PN: You could say that, because Gwangju finished in fifth and five points behind Daejeon, that they have nothing to lose. Do you think that could give the players that extra bit of freedom?

PH: Gwangju have been in this position before, finishing fourth in 2014 to defy the odds and earn promotion the hard way. Wins at Gangwon and Ansan Mugunghwa preceded a 4-2 aggregate defeat of Gyeongnam to provide ample inspiration for this week’s encounters. Only Je Jonghyun, Jeong Junyeon and Yeo Reum remain from the side that achieved such an impressive feat but I’m sure they will be reminding their current teammates that anything can happen in football. League positions have little bearing on the playoffs and with others having to suffer the heartache of being closer to automatic promotion and perhaps this lack of expectation could be reason for optimism among the Gwangju faithful.

The summer signing of Robson Duarte, while releasing some of the pressure on Na Sangho as sole instigator, has loosened the reigns in terms of creativity. With Na Sangho dominating the goal scoring charts and with good reason being trusted with the majority of set pieces, Duarte has been indispensable since his arrival and is involved in most of Gwangju’s meaningful chances. Whoever Ko Jongsoo chooses to play down the right for the hosts will be in for a busy evening, even if Na is suspended for Wednesday's game.

PN: They easily dispatched of Ansan Greeners on the final day and seem determined to make this opportunity count. What do Gwangju do better than any other team in the playoffs? In other words, if they manage to make it to the final, what will be the main attributing factor for them to have done so?

PH: Dogged determination has been the name of the game for Gwangju towards the end of this season. Grinding out 2-2 draws at Seongnam and Busan IPark in their last two outings on the road, the Yellows came from behind in both games and their tenacity was typified by a 94th-minute equaliser at the Gudeok. Firing straight out of the blocks against Ansan, it was almost as if that scrappy Lee Seungmo effort in Busan sparked some rejuvenation into possibly the division’s most inconsistent side. While they were in reality playing Ansan’s second-string, the forward combination play of Duarte, Felipe and Na Sangho looked effortless at times so Na's absence is likely to be felt.

Conceding nine in their last five on the road you couldn’t claim that Gwangju defend in a stoutly manner but they certainly possess a never-say-die attitude that could draw the game out to the death. Park certainly has his side raring to go from the off and looking to embrace their top-heavy line-up and I doubt we will see such cagey fixtures as we did in last year’s play-offs. This defensive naivety should make for an entertaining fixture in Daejeon and in one-off games could see them triumph at grounds where the onus of attacking intent lies on the home team.

Playoff Writers' Chat: Daejeon Citizen vs Gwangju FC K League 2 Na Sangho

PN: Gwangju won more games on the road this year than they did at home (six to five), one of those victories was the last gasp 2-1 win over Daejeon in June. Gwangju will fancy themselves, don’t you think?

PH: Na Sangho’s last-minute winner at Daejeon in June demonstrates the spirit in the Yellows camp. Coming from behind to score twice in injury time will no doubt give Gwangju confidence heading north on Wednesday. Their inconsistency seems to settle down on the road and Gwangju have shown impressive aptitude to grind out draws at top clubs. Knowing that a draw will see them eliminated from the playoffs they will rightly be viewed as underdogs but Park’s side have only lost twice on the road since June. Failing to score in just four away games since March, the Yellows will back themselves to get on the score sheet in Daejeon, their major worry being picked apart through the middle by technically superior players such as Hwang In-beom.

PN: Prediction?

PH: I feel that we’re in for a playoff classic on Wednesday akin to Sunderland vs Charlton in 1998. The visitors will try to fire themselves in front early on to give themselves something to hold on to, which could in turn leave space at the back for Daejeon to exploit. However, I feel that Daejeon may be slightly too strong in the middle of the park and a whirlwind encounter may fizzle out as the hosts sit back to defend a draw in the last ten minutes.

Daejeon Citizen 3-3 Gwangju FC

Daejeon Citizen: DWLLL
Gwangju FC: WDWLD

20 Games
Daejeon Citizen 9 wins
Gwangju FC 6 wins
Draws 5

Peter Hampshire Asks, Paul Neat Answers

Peter Hampshire: After a staggering unbeaten run of eight wins in 10 games, Daejeon suffered somewhat of a blip with three consecutive defeats in October. Do you feel four points from two recent home games has put those shaky performances behind them?

Paul Neat: I think so, yes. The 3-0 win over Bucheon in round 35 was rather comprehensive and showed how ruthless Daejeon can be when they need to be. In that game they took an early lead and then, in the second half, found another gear to really put the game to bed.

In the draw with Anyang on the final day, even though it was a much-changed team, the players showed a lot of character to come back from 2-0 down to salvage a draw. Actually, in fairness, Daejeon very nearly went on to win the game and had chances to make it three-nil. It was impressive to see Ko Jongsoo being proactive in making changes at key points during the game, and for his players to respond so well. Those who came into the team for that draw to Anyang will have given Ko something to think about for the game on Wednesday.

PH: Ko Jongsoo did make a lot of changes for that game, giving youth a chance to shine in the 2-2 draw at home to FC Anyang. Do you feel any of these made a suitable impression to be considered for the starting line-up Wednesday?

PN: I was surprised by just how many changes Ko made. Granted, it's understandable that he will have wanted to protect his star players but the game was on November 11th; the playoff semifinal was always going to be more than two weeks later. When I saw the teamsheet I feared that that young Citizen team would give in to an Anyang side that still had a playoff place to play for themselves.

I think Park Daehoon, normally a winger or an outside forward who played at right-back, performed very well. His background as a winger means that he has good delivery and he's shown that on a number of occasions this season, despite limited chances to actually show what he can do. He hasn't featured as much as I expected but, when he has come into the side, he has contributed and may feel as though he deserves a place over Hwang Jaehoon who has been a little poor in recent outings, the 2-0 away defeat to Seongnam for instance where he was culpable for both goals.

However, I think other than at full-back, and on the left wing, Ko will have more or less already made his mind up on who will play on Wednesday night. However, it must have been pleasing for Ko to know that, even with so many changes, his fringe players will put on a decent display.

PH: Is there any fear among the Daejeon supporters that Ko Jongsoo may try and play in a more defensive manner knowing that a draw would see them progress? What do you expect from the Purples tactically?

PN: I don't think so. Ko Jongsoo doesn't really know how to play defensively. His team have always gone for the win, the fairly recent away wins over Busan and Gwangju for instance. In both those games, Daejeon weren't content with a draw and went for broke to find a winner. Against Busan, Ko Kyungmin levelled with little over 15 minutes left yet Daejeon still showed enough courage to go and get the winner - it would have been very easy for the Purples to have just settled for a draw. Likewise, against Gwangju, scoring twice in time added on to win the game shows the true character of this team. Granted, those three defeats in a row weren't ideal but Daejeon can head into the playoffs unbeaten in their last two and confident that they can get another good result.

Playoff Writers' Chat: Daejeon Citizen vs Gwangju FC K League 2 Aurelian Chitu

PH: Aurelian Chițu has picked up K League United's Newcomer of the Year Award for K League 2. What has been so impressive about his inaugural season? Could he be the difference against a Gwangju side that have conceded in their last five consecutive games?

PN: He just has that extra bit of quality when it's needed. He's composed, knows when to come deep and try to create or when to get in the box. He can play as an out-and-out striker or as a winger and so his versatility gives him good movement as he can occupy the channels or play off the shoulder as well as come deep. He's good in the air too and has scored a decent amount of headers. With Chițu on the pitch, Daejeon know that they have a match-winner - that little bit of class in and around the box. And, at the moment, he will be full of confidence so heading into Wednesday's game, having been rested since the Bucheon home game in round 35, he should be raring to go.

PH: Prediction?

PN: Daejeon seldom do things the easy way and so it wouldn't be all that far-fetched to expect them to make hard work of the game on Wednesday. Perhaps, a Gwangju lead to spur the Purples into life with a second half comeback.

Daejeon Citizen 2-1 Gwangju FC

2018 K League Promotion/Relegation Playoffs: How it all Works

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