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Playoff Final Recap: FC Seoul 1-1 (4-2) Busan IPark

Playoff Final Recap: FC Seoul 1-1 (4-2) Busan IPark
FC Seoul successfully avoided relegation to K League 2 after seeing off the challenge of Busan IPark over two legs with a 4-2 aggregate win in the K League Promotion/Relegation Playoff Final. A Park Chuyoung equaliser in the dying embers of Sunday's second leg, cancelled out Kim Jingyu's first half opener to put the gloss on securing K League 1 status for Choi Yongsoo’s FC Seoul in 2019.

After Thursday's 3-1 first leg victory at Busan’s Gudeok Stadium, FC Seoul merely needed to avoid losing by a three-goal margin at Sangam to wrap the tie up and secure their place in Korea's top flight for next season.

And so, ahead of Sunday's all important second leg, FC Seoul manager Choi Yongsoo stuck with his favoured 3-5-2 formation, making just one personnel change: Yun Sukyoung returned on the left-hand side in place of Kim Hangil whilst Jung Hyeoncheol and Cho Youngwook kept their places in the side after finding the net in Busan on Thursday.

Busan IPark, meanwhile, shifted to a 3-4-3 formation, a slight adjustment from Thursday's 3-1-4-2. Kim Myeongjoon was brought in for the suspended Kwon Jinyoung at centre half as the only change, whilst Kim Jingyu was ushered out to the right wing in a three-pronged attack.

The first half began, perhaps as expected, with the visitors on the front foot. Seoul, wary of Busan’s pace, got men behind the ball and shifted to more of a back four and five with the full-backs tucking in when Seoul needed to defend and keep their shape.

However, with 10 minutes on the clock, the visitors very nearly took the lead thanks to an excellent chance which fell to midfielder Lee Jaekwon, forcing an equally excellent stop from goalkeeper Yang Hanbin. A well-worked move, which began with former Seoul full-back Kim Chiwoo in the left back position, saw the play switched over to the right flank with Rômulo playing in Kim Jingyu down the line. The ball was then fed to Kim Moonhwan on the overlap before the Asian Games gold medallist's cross found Han Jiho at the far post and teed up Lee Jaekwon on the edge of the area. Lee's left-footed strike seemed destined for the bottom corner and looked as though it would have been were it not for the out-stretched hand of Yang Hanbin.

For the first 15 minutes, Seoul were largely camped in their own half with the hosts doing well to patiently spread play once they did manage to regain possession. When on the ball, Seoul were much more composed in the centre of the park - Jung Hyeoncheol in particular who had clearly been missed after a long injury layoff.

When Choi Yongsoo’s side did try to get on the front foot, short and intelligent passing afforded them some meaningful possession but without ever really breaking into Busan's defensive third. Although aesthetically pleasing at times, first time passes in triangles and from side to side gave Seoul something in the way of a rhythm. Alas, Koo Sangmin's cleansheet remained in tact.

And so, it was of little surprise that it was the hosts who drew first blood. On 33 minutes, Rômulo found space down the left to send in a low, teasing cross for young forward Kim Jingyu to divert past Yang Hanbin from close range. The promising youngster broke free of his man to prod home from point blank range, much to the delight of the united K League away end.

The closest Seoul got to the Busan 18-yard box came on 39 minutes when Go Yohan weaved his way across the edge of the penalty area before playing the ball into the feet of Yun Jutae but the former Sangju man’s first touch was poor and the chance was gone.

Two minutes of injury time were added at the end of the first 45, a half of football where the visitors were deservedly in front. Seoul’s quick one-touch passing was a lot better than what had been served up at Sangam for the majority of the year but, much like what else the Seoul faithful have had to endure, there was not a great deal of end product to speak of. And so, at half time, Busan went in one goal to the good.

At half time Choi Yongsoo took off Yun Juntae and replaced him with Park Chuyoung. Seoul then began the second half with a bit more purpose and vigour, knowing that another Busan goal would set them up for a nervy finish to proceedings.The opening exchanges of the second period were somewhat open, Go Yohan a man possessed in trying to drive the team forward and create something from central midfield.

Seoul's first look at goal in the second period fell in the 54th minute when a ball across from Yun Jongkyu was cut out decisively by Busan goalkeeper Koo Sangmin. The chance was a prime example of Seoul's ability to produce decent build up play but just lacked that final ball after Park Chuyoung and Ha Dasung had switched play from right to left to found Yun on the overlap. However, the wing-back's ball across goal was just a touch too close to the goalkeeper.

Seoul began to indicate that they were growing into the game but whenever the K1 side looked like they were showing signs that an equaliser or a clear cut chance on goal was about to be carved out, Busan would remind their hosts that their aggregate lead was still very much a precarious one, using their pace to get in behind and try to work balls across goal.

Han Jiho had a look at goal 12 minutes into the second half but the ever-reliable Yang Hanbin palmed the ball away to safety, reminding the Sangam faithful of just how important the custodian has been to Seoul this term.

Moments later Seoul made their second substitution, Evandro on for Cho Youngwook and within minutes the Brazilian tested Koo Sangmin but his left footed effort was well scouted. The Brazilian is clearly lacking in confidence and belief but the former Daegu forward seldom ever hides and was always looking to receive the ball, determined to make a success of his time at Sangam.

Busan's Brazilian, Rômulo, picked up a caution on 71 minutes for taking his free kick without waiting until for the referee's whistle but was allowed to retake. The second attempted hit the wall, rolled to Ko Kyungmin who then earned Busan a corner. But, Go Yohan intercepted and Seoul hit Busan the break to relieve the pressure and, eventually, earn a freekick in the Busan half.

On 74 minutes, Yang Hanbin kept Busan at bay once again when Kim Jingyu, 20 yards out, played the ball into Han Jiho who then sent the ball into the box to Koo Hyunjoon. Koo's well-struck shot was kept out superbly, a huge save by Yang Hanbin to keep the score at just 1-0.

As the game crept towards the latter stages, Seoul began to get more men behind the ball to try and weather the storm. The visitors, still with their tails up, went searching for a second goal. Seoul’s best chance of the second half came in the 83rd minute and to Park Chuyoung who forced a save from Koo Sangmin. The Seoul number 10 had Evandro to his right who was perhaps better placed but instead opted to shoot, forcing Koo to parry the ball out.

Soon after there was a golden opportunity for Busan to make it two-nil when Rômulo, in the 89th minute on his weaker right foot could only muster a relatively tame shot at Yang Hanbin. The Brazilian found himself in space inside the box but was unable to get enough power behind his shot which Yang Hanbin was all too happy to smother the ball and clutch it to his chest. After which the fourth official signalled for four minutes of time added on.

Thereafter it was backs to the wall stuff for the hosts as Rômulo had yet another chance but his left-footed curler sailed over the bar and, with time ticking on, Busan’s chances of finding not one but two goals looked increasingly more like mission impossible.

Instead, in the third minute of added on time, FC Seoul found themselves an equaliser. Kim Dongwoo cut out Lee Jaekwon's ball through towards goal, Go Yohan mopped up the loose ball and played in Park Chuyoung first time on the half-way line. Busan goalkeeper, Koo Sangmin, rushed out to meet Park just shy of the half way line but the veteran striker reacted quickest, struck the ball first time from all of 45 yards past the on-rushing Koo Sangmin to find an empty net. Seoul were level on the night but had restored their two-goal cushion with the aggregate score now at 4-2.

Shortly after the referee blew for full time, much to the relief of the FC Seoul fans and apparent relative embarrassment of the FC Seoul players whose celebrations were muted and short lived. For Busan, it was heartbreak for the second year running but credit must be given to Choi Yunkyum's side who, eleven versus eleven, more than matched FC Seoul.

The 1-1 draw meant that Seoul managed to avoid ending the season with three 1-0 defeats in four matches. Choi Yongsoo's side headed into the final two matches of the campaign needing just a point to secure survival: a home fixture with Incheon United and Sangju Sangmu, who sat in eleventh place at the time, away from home on the final day of the season.

However, back-to-back 1-0 defeats condemned Seoul to the dreaded Promotion/Relegation Playoffs and had to overcome a very strong Busan IPark side. Busan, of course, made the final last year, losing to Sangju Sangmu on penalties and so will be bitterly disappointed to have suffered a painful playoff heartbreak for the second time in successive seasons. Defeat to Seoul will be a bitter pill to swallow for Choi Yunkyum and his side after such a strong showing over the course of the 2018 K League 2 season.

FC Seoul secured their safety thanks to their second half display at the Gudeok on Thursday when a three goal fight back flipped the game on its head. In front of a bumper crowd at Busan IPark’s Gudeok Stadium, FC Seoul came back from a goal down to win by three-goals-to-one gave the capital club a solid base to build from heading into Sunday's second leg at Sangam.

Busan’s Brazilian ace, Rômulo, gave the hosts an early lead, finding the top corner from distance with aplomb with as little as nine minutes on the clock. However, a second booking for Kwon Jinyoung reduced IPark to 10 men just shy of the interval for what was adjudged to be a two-footed lunge on Seoul striker Yun Jutae. The 27 year-old had been booked little over 20 minutes earlier for a shut tug on the same FC Seoul player.

Smelling blood, FC Seoul put on a spirited second-half display and fought back to score three goals and give Choi Yongsoo’s side a relatively comprehensive victory. In the 59th minute, Cho Youngwook restored parity, turning the ball home at the far post from a Kim Dongwoo cross, with what was, at the time, Seoul’s first from open play in 320 minutes of football..

Go Yohan, donning the captain’s armband since his sending off away to Jeonnam in early October, got Seoul’s second with a close-range header after Ha Daesung had sent in a perfectly weighted cross towards the far post.

The victory was sealed in the 89th minute when midfielder Jung Hyeoncheol was able to find the back of the net with a header of his own, turning in Park Chuyoung’s corner from the left after some poor Busan defending on the edge of the six-yard line.

Despite finishing in third, Busan made it to the final due to Asan Mugunghwa’s recruitment crisis which prevented the K League 2 title-winning team from being promoted to the top tier. Instead, Seongnam were awarded automatic promotion and Busan a bye into the K League 2 Promotion Playoff Final against Daejeon Citizen.

A resounding 3-0 victory over the Purples booked the south coast side’s place in the final but, in the end, FC Seoul were able to limp over the line and prevent a shocking relegation.

FC Seoul fans with a banner that reads "Let's forget 2018".
Ultimately, questions will be asked of how FC Seoul found themselves in such a position. Three managers, three different sets of captain and vice captains, as well as a distinct lack of firepower will be seen as a huge factor. However, decisions at boardroom level where questionable decisions were made on player retention and recruitment.

Alas, FC Seoul will compete in K League 1 in 2019.


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