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Preview: Gyeongnam FC vs Pohang Steelers

K League 1 Preview: Gyeongnam FC vs Pohang Steelers


There will be smiling faces aplenty this weekend when Gyeongnam FC host Pohang Steelers at the Changwon Football Center.  The Reds have qualified for the Asian Champions League following their victory over Jeju United last Saturday.  Suwon Bluewings being defeated by Pohang a day later meant Gyeongnam can finish no lower than third.  However, this Saturday afternoon's clash will be fiercely contested as The Steelers are in pole position for that 4th place finish in the league and a possible ACL berth is up for grabs for them as a result.



Match:  Gyeongnam FC vs Pohang Steelers
Place:  Changwon Football Center, Changwon
Kick off:  SaturdayNovember 10th 16:00 KST

Last Time Out

Jeju United 0-1 Gyeongnam FC

This turned out to be a vital away win for The Reds against an in-form Jeju United outfit.  It was an own goal via the unfortunate center back Lee Kwang-seon after 19 minutes that was the difference between the two sides.  An inswinging free-kick was contested by Kwang-seon and Gyeongnams' Marcão in the penalty area, his attempt to clear the ball under immense pressure proved too much and off balanced he only proceeded in prodding the ball passed a helpless Lee Chang-geun in the home sides goal.  The Islanders, however, did have an excellent opportunity to level matters with just two minutes remaining in the first half.   Gyeongnam's right back Lee Kwang-jin was adjudged to have handled the ball in amongst a melee of players in the box after a corner was not cleared.  Jeju United's' Tiago Marques stepped up for the home side but his weak spot-kick was easily saved down to his left by Song Jung-Hyun.  It proved to be a real let off for the away side.  The second half was a stop-start affair with neither side getting a grip on the game. In the end, Gyeongnam held on after bringing on some defensive reinforcements for quite an easy but important three points.

Suwon Bluewings 1-3 Pohang Steelers

The late showing from the away side here brought all three points home south.  Two goals in the last fifteen proved the difference here with the effects of a long season for The Bluewings starting to take its toll on the players.  Pohang raced out of the blocks and took the lead in quite fortuitous fashion just before the half-hour mark through left winger Kim Do-Hyung.  His cross in from the left looked a dangerous one and everyone including home goalkeeper Shin Hwa-yong could do was watch it as the ball curled into the bottom corner.  A lucky strike indeed.  The home side, however, didn't give up and really started bossing the game thereafter up until the break and they deservedly levelled matters on 42 minutes through the right boot of striker Han Eui-gwon.  It was a classy strike as well.  He still had a lot to do when he received the ball about 25 yards out but he had no hesitation but to look up and in one stride hit the ball cleanly for it to fly past Kang Hyeon-mu in the away sides goal and into the bottom left-hand corner.  Then, with the game looking like it would be petering out into a draw, Pohang struck to send the away fans wild on 76 minutes.  It came from the unlikely source of attacking midfielder Lee Jin-hyun for his 4th goal of the campaign.  A simple tap in after the initial shot was cleared off the line by a Suwon defender.  He showed great willingness to get into the box in the first place.  Then to add insult to injury striker Lee Seok-hyun bundled the ball over the line with just six minutes remaining after a great move on the right to seal the win for the Steelers.

Previous Meetings

The sides have met in the regular season three times with Gyeongnam taking six points off The Steelers and Pohang winning just the once.  Gyeongnam travelled to The Steel Yard in April and came away empty-handed losing 2-1.  They soon got their revenge a few months later in July by winning 2-0 over in Gimhae.  The most recent of clashes was a balmy night in August and it turned out to be a great night for Marcão.  The K League 1's leading goalscorer helped himself to a hat-trick as The Reds turned in a brilliant away performance, winning 3-0.  Overall they have played each other 30 times.  Pohang by far have the better record of the two sides, winning 19 of them.  Gyeongnam have just won the six encounters and five have ended in draws.

Team News

All ears and eyes will be on the news of Gyeongnams' main goal threat in Marcão as he came off away against Jeju United midway through the second half with what looked a nasty injury to his troublesome knee (the same one he injured away up at Incheon United).  Rumour has it he may only be fit enough to make the bench.  But this will be a late decision by manager Kim Jung-boo.  The Reds can again call on the services of experienced playmaker Jo Jae-cheol who had been sidelined for about a month now with an unknown injury.  The rest of the squad are fit and raring to go with no suspensions either ruling any players out.

The Adversary

Last weekend Pohang not only replaced their opponents Suwon in fourth position but also put an end to their 14-game winless run against the Bluewings. It was a much-needed confidence boost for the east coast side in the race for the potential last ACL place. It was a performance that was undoubtedly aided by the Bluewings’ hectic schedule of late but still encouraging especially given their all too recent 2-0 defeat at the same venue.

Most importantly for the side is that coach Choi Soon-ho seems to have found the right balance in the side and specifically utilising summer window loan returnee Lee Jin-hyun. Lee, a recent winner at the Asian Games with the U-23 national team, which has seen him included in the full national squads since, after initially starting in central midfield has been moved further upfield to the left forward position and the team are reaping the rewards. On the scoresheet in two consecutive games, the 21 year-old has become adept at finding space inside the opponents’ box and crucially putting the ball in the back of the net, which has been the Steelers’ problem all season. With that in mind, Lee is bound to start in the front three and will most likely be partnered by top scorer, and fellow national squad member, Kim Seung-dae alongside Kim Do-Hyung who has two goals in his four starts.

Kim Ji-min is suspended so the selection for the constantly rotates front line should be straightforward enough this time for the Choi who this recent extended his contract with the club. In other team news, Lee Hu-kwon was lucky to escape a potential leg-breaker against Suwon but has a nasty gash so will likely miss this week’s encounter. Pohang Steelers have been badly beaten by Gyeongnam in the past two meetings and so will have to perform much better this time round if they are to maintain their push for the all-important 4th place.

(By Pohang Steelers columnist Ross Davis)


Prediction

Both sides are coming off the back of two great away wins against Jeju United and Suwon Bluewings respectively.  Traditionally these games are always tight affairs.  With Gyeongnam already guaranteed an ACL berth, they might take their foot off the gas a little.  However, given the way their manager sets up the team to play, I can't see this happening, and if it does he certainly isn't afraid to ring the changes when it seems fit.  Pohang looked very impressive last Sunday and they will come to Gyeongnam with a bounce in their step.  I think both sides will share the spoils here.


Gyeongnam 2-2 Pohang Steelers.


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