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FA Cup Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Gwangju FC

Jeonnam Dragons welcome local rivals Gwangju FC to Gwangyang this Wednesday evening in the third round of the 2019 KFA Cup. Can three-times winners Jeonnam kick on after their first victory of the season against FC Anyang last time out, and advance to the next round of the cup? Or will Gwangju FC earn local bragging rights and, more importantly, a place in the fourth round? Aodan Halligan and Peter Hampshire preview this big game.

Match: Jeonnam Dragons vs Gwangju FC
Venue: Gwangyang Football Stadium
Kickoff: Wednesday 7 pm

Last Time Out

Jeonnam Dragons and their new head coach, Fabiano Soares, earned their first points of 2019, courtesy of a narrow home victory over FC Anyang in Gwangyang on March 17th. The Brazilian looked relieved after the final whistle and will no doubt be hoping that the win marks a turning point in the Dragons' season.

Soares sprang a few surprises before kickoff with his team selection, opting to give South Korean under-19 international defender, Choe Ik-jin, his full debut on the right of his front three, and bringing Lee Seul-chan back from the cold to shore up the right hand side of his defence.

Nevertheless, the hosts started off slowly and were somewhat fortunate not to find themselves a goal down in the ninth minute when Kim Won-min was presented with a free header 13 yards out. But Kim got his head under the ball, and it flew high and wide. The Dragons then squandered a great chance of their own after Bruno's clever through ball picked out Vedran Jugović around twelve yards from goal. The Croatian opted to go for the bottom left corner; however, his left-foot strike lacked power and was beaten away by Anyang keeper Yang Dong-won.

Both sides had chances after that, but the deadlock wasn't broken until the stroke of half time when Choi Jae-hyeon blasted the ball home from around three yards out after Yang Dong-won had brilliantly saved Bruno's header. There were no more goals in the game so Jeonnam went on the claim their first victory and clean sheet of the season.
Full Time: Jeonnam Dragons 1-0 FC Anyang

Highlights: here 

Early pacesetters Gwangju FC had to settle for a share of the spoils against fellow promotion contenders, Busan I'Park, at Gwangju World Cup Stadium. After a goalless first half, the visitors took the lead in the 49th minute from Rômulo's penalty -  the Brazilian number ten expertly side-footing the ball into the bottom-left corner of the net after a slow run-up. Moments later, Lee Don-jun had a glorious opportunity to double the visitors' advantage when Ku Hyeon-jun's left wing cross reached him inside the six-yard box, but the forward put it straight at the keeper. 

And after missing a few more chances to finish the home side off, Busan were made pay when Lee Si-young's right-wing cross found Felipe at the far post in the 62nd minute. The Brazilian number nine chested the ball down and then sent the ball home with his left foot to continue his hot scoring streak and keep Gwangju at the top of the table. 


Full Time: Gwangju FC 1-1 Busan I'Park

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

Jeonnam Dragons and Gwangju FC last locked horns on October 15th 2017 in Gwangyang, with the latter prevailing by four goals to two. Na Sang-ho put the visitors in front in the 27th minute that day, but Robert Feczesin replied for the hosts just six minutes later. Choi Hyo-jin then gave the home side the lead in the 51st minute; however, Gwangju's 59th minute substitute, Macedo, then turned the game on its head. The Brazilian (who, of course, has since joined Jeonnam) scored seconds after his introduction and went on to score a penalty and another goal to complete his hat-trick and give the visitors a two-goal victory.

Gwangju lead the head-to-head record by two,  having won eight of the 19 games between the sides. Jeonnam have been victorious on just six occasions and the other five games ended in draws.

Team News

With two home games against Gwangju in store this week, it'll be interesting to see what teams Dragons gaffer Fabiano Soares puts out. He may decide to give some fringe players a chance in the cup on Wednesday; on the other hand, he could opt to stick with the team that defeated Anyang on St Patrick's Day. But, whatever he decides, he will most likely have to do without Kwak Kwang-seon, Nick Ansell and Macedo as all three are nursing injuries. However, Han Chan-hee and Lee You-hyeon should be available for the league game on Saturday after being involved with the national under-23 team against Australia on Tuesday.

The Adversary

Few predicted Gwangju's stellar start to the season as Park Jin-seop's side sit top of the second division. A competitive draw with last season's play-off finalists Busan I-Park last time out continued their unbeaten start, despite Lee Jin-hyung's net being breached for the first time. Felipe grabbed his fifth in three games as a settled side look to defy the odds. An FA Cup run may not be high on the youthful Yellows list of priorities, but given the extra spice of consecutive derby days it could be a good opportunity to assert dominance over their Jeolla neighbours.

Gwangju boss Park may be wary of disrupting early momentum by tinkering too much with his starting line-up. Om Won-sang and Lee Hee-gyeon have been relentless on the wings, but you could envisage them being rested for this one, with the former coming off at half time against Busan. There's also a dilemma in defence to consider with new signing Rustam Ashurmatov pushing for his first involvement, sitting alongside Jeong Jun-yeon on the bench who is seeing a lot less game time this season. Whatever side the 42-year-old manager puts out, he will hope they fare better than last year's dismal 3-1 defeat away to non-league Daejeon Korail. In fact, Gwangju have only won twice on the road in this competition since their formation, the latest on penalties in Jeju United in 2016.

Who To Watch

With five goals already to his name this season, Gwangju FC's number nine, Felipe, is in devastating form and is the top scorer in K League 2 this season. The six-foot-three inch striker is a real threat in the air and boasts one of the most lethal left feet in the country. But, the 26-year-old is equally impressive with his right, holds up the ball really well and can dribble, too. Frighteningly for the Dragons, the Brazilian has scored in every game he's played so far this year and will no doubt be confident of adding to his total against a team who have conceded six goals in their first three games.

Prediction

Cup matches are very hard to predict, but I've a feeling we could be in for a high- scoring cracker here, with the visitors just about shading it in the end.

Jeonnam Dragons 2-3 Gwangju FC



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