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FA Cup Final 1st Leg Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Daegu FC

FA Cup Final 1st Leg Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Daegu FC
'Tis the season and the K League has played its final round, meaning all eyes now turn to the FA Cup Final. This year Ulsan Hyundai are hoping to defend their title against first-time finalists Daegu FC. Ulsan will be favourites to lift the cup, despite being in a mixed patch of form, but Daegu, who are unbeaten in seven, may have hit their stride at just the right time. Ulsan columnist Daniel Croydon previews this initial encounter, with help from Daegu contributor Muyeol Jung
Image courtesy of www.slist.kr

Match: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Daegu FC
Venue: Munsu Football Stadium, Ulsan
Kickoff: Wednesday 5th November, 2018; 19:30 KST

Last Time Out

Pohang Steelers 1-3 Ulsan Hyundai (Video Highlights)
With league positions pretty much decided, neither team had much to play for in this the fourth and final East Coast Derby of the year.  Despite this though, it turned out to be a well fought, blood and thunder type of affair.  There were chances for both teams before Lee Keun-ho gave the visitors the lead on 30 mins with an excellent left foot finish, before impressive Steelers youngster, Lee Jin-hyun equalized just before halftime with his fifth of the campaign.  Ulsan came out the hungrier side in the second half and brought on Park Yong-woo and Junior on the hour in an attempt to win the game. The substitutions worked, as a quickfire double, first from backup defender Lee Chang-yong, and then from Junior, gave the Horangi their third derby win of the campaign.

Gangwon FC 0-1 Daegu FC (Video Highlights)
Daegu wrapped up what has been a terrific last few months of the season with a somewhat fortuitous victory over Gangwon.  The result means André's entertaining side head into the cup final unbeaten in seven in all competitions. Daegu took the lead on 17 minutes when Park Han-bin volleyed home the rebound after his own header hit the post. After that, the visitors had to withstand a lot of pressure from Gangwon's considerable attacking talent, but they showed the spirit and determination necessary to hold on for all three points. The win meant André's Sky Blues finished the season in seventh spot - a remarkable accomplishment considering they were rooted to the foot of the table for much of the first half of the campaign with one win in their opening fifteen games.

Previous Meetings

There is no getting around the fact that Ulsan have dominated Daegu at home over the years. In the nineteen games they have played in the Munsu Stadium, the Horangi have never lost, with just four matches ending in draws. Ulsan have averaged nearly two goals a game in the league fixture, whereas Daegu have managed just one every two matches.

The 2-0 scoreline earlier this season seems fairly typical then. In a game that was most memorable for World Cup hero Cho Hyun-woo's red card for handling outside the box, Ulsan's veteran defender Kang Min-soo opened the scoring before Junior got his customary goal late on to seal the deal. (Video Highlights)

There is one ray of light for Daegu fans though. They won the only FA Cup meeting between these two sides way back in 2008 - a 2-1 quarter-final victory at Daegu Stadium - thanks to a brace from an up and coming 23-year-old by the name of Lee Keun-ho.  The current Ulsan attacker scored a total of 19 goals in two seasons with Daegu, before moving to Jubilo Iwata in the J-League.

Team News

Ulsan Hyundai
Kim Do-hoon took the opportunity to rest many of his first choice eleven for the trip to Pohang last Saturday. And so we have a good insight into who he plans to pick for this first leg. The regular center-back pairing of Richard Windbichler and Lim Jong-eun are set to return, along with full-backs Lee Myeong-jae and Park Tae-hwan.  In midfield Park Yong-woo is eligible to play in the final, despite his red card at Pohang, and will line up along side a fully-rested Mix Diskerud.

On the wings, regular first-team players Lee Keun-ho and Kim In-sung played the full 90 mins on Saturday, suggesting Kim Do-hoon will call on the services of Hwang Il-soo and Kim Seung-jun at some point in this match.

Finally, Saturday saw the long-awaited return of Lee Jong-ho from a knee injury that has kept him out for almost the entire season.  The ex-Jeonnam and Jeonbuk striker looked short of full match fitness and was replaced by Junior in the second half.  However, if Ulsan are looking for a fairytale way to win the cup, perhaps they can call on Lee Jong-Horangi to pounce on a late chance.

The Adversary

Daegu FC
With the 2018 K League season over and seventh place confirmed, Daegu FC are ahead of what will be the most important tie in the club’s history, the FA Cup Final. In order for the Sky Blues to reach the final, they beat Jeonnam Dragons 2-1 in the semi-final, following a series of wins over Yongin University, Yangpyeong FC (K3 League), and Mokpo City FC (National League). You could disparage Daegu’s path to the final as the opponents were relatively easy, but considering the hectic fixture list due to the World Cup break and relegation battle, Andre managed to lead the team to the final very well with a bit of rotation in the right places and and at the right time.

FA Cup Final 1st Leg Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Daegu FC Edgar Silva
Daegu's target man Edgar Silva will be a threat from set pieces
Heading to Munsu for the first leg of the final, Daegu will likely set up with their strongest side without any suspensions to worry about, while some usual absentees like Ze Roberto and Jung Woo-jae are excluded. Last Saturday, Daegu had the final round of 2018 K League though, Andre entirely surprisingly ruled out most of the regulars who were replaced by inexperienced youngsters. Therefore, in terms of fitness and fatigue, Daegu may have the upper hand against Ulsan, who had to field quite a strong side in the East Coast Derby.

Strategically, Daegu will take a defensive approach and then try to hit their opponents on the counter. Two of the nominees for Young Player of the Year, Jung Seung-won and Kim Dae-won are very quick on the ball and capable of destroying the opposition defence. In addition to that, set plays are another option that Daegu will particularly aim at as they have good height. For instance, Brazilian centre forward Edgar and towering centre back Hong Jung-woon have scored a few goals from dead balls this season.

It’s not always the case the statistics will decide the outcome in football, but realistically and statistically, it will be hard to get more than draw on the road, given the Sky Blues have never claimed a victory at Munsu Stadium. However, if they get a draw in the first leg, it will give them huge confidence and open up the possibility of being champions in the second leg which will be played in Daegu Stadium three days later.
by Muyeol Jung

Who To Watch

Junior Negrao
One player who definitely enjoys this fixture is Ulsan's goal machine Junior Negrao. The Brazilian striker netted in all three league meetings this year, with every goal coming in injury time. Junior also scored twice at Ulsan last season, for Daegu. He made 16 appearances for the Sky Blues in 2017, scoring 12 goals in the process. Despite being on the losing side that night, Junior must have impressed Kim Do-hoon because the manager wasted no time in signing the 31-year-old forward in the winter transfer window.

FA Cup Final 1st Leg Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Daegu FC Junior Negrao
Junior Negrao has been in unstoppable form this season
And what a signing he has been.  Junior has scored  27 goals in all competitions this year, including the winners in both the quarter-final and the semi-final of the FA Cup. His total of 22 league goals is more than club record marksman, Kim Shin-wook ever managed in a single season.  

So, Junior is bound to have a huge impact on the outcome of Wednesday night's first leg. He has been guilty at times of missing a few chances (see the 0-1 loss to Jeju two weeks ago), but like all good strikers, his hunger to put the ball in the back of the net has never wavered.  An FA Cup winners medal would be a fitting end to a fantastic year for the Ulsan sharpshooter.


Ulsan have to be favourites, not only for this first leg, but to lift the cup overall.  However, they will need to guard against complacency in this first leg, as Daegu have ended the season in fine form.  Therefore, as with all finals, the first goal will be crucial. If Daegu can frustrate their hosts and nick a goal along the way, then they should have a decent chance in the second leg.  However, I think Ulsan are going to give themselves a fairly commanding lead ahead of Saturday's trip to Daegu.  The Horangi create so many chances and have so many attacking options, I just can't see Daegu keeping the likes of Junior, Kim In-sung and Han Seung-kyu quiet for long. I expect a comfortable, if not crushing, home win that leaves Daegu's dream of a first FA Cup title dangling by a thread.

Dan's Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 2-0 Daegu FC

The K League United Podcast

You can listen to an in-depth preview on the latest edition of The K League United Podcast with our writers Matthew Binns, Paul Neat, Dan Croydon and Jung Muyeol as they look ahead to this exciting clash. You can hear the podcast on iTunes, TuneIn Radio, Spotify or Libsyn, or click to listen to it in the player below.

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