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Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Gyeongnam FC

K League 1 2019 Round 3 Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Gyeongnam FC
Pohang Steelers come into their match against Gyeongnam in K League 1 off the back of successive defeats to FC Seoul on the road and Sangju Sangmu at home last week.  They have conceded four and scored only one over that span.  Gyeongnam, meanwhile, return to league action following their second draw in ACL play, after their trip to Malaysia saw them finish 1-1 with Johor Darul Ta’zim, while their last time out in K League play saw them lose 2-1 away to Incheon United.  KLU’s Branko Belan looks ahead to Sunday afternoon’s clash at the Steelyard.

Match: Pohang Steelers vs Gyeongnam FC
Venue: Pohang Steelyard
Kickoff: Sunday March 17th, 2019; 16:00 KST

Last Time Out

Pohang Steelers 1-2 Sangju Sangmu

It did not take long for the first goal to fall in this one, as the home side went ahead in the sixth minute, thanks to David da Silva converting from the spot.  Kim Yong-hwan made a run down the right and cut into the area, where he was adjudged to have been fouled by Kim Min-woo, although the referee’s decision was questionable at best.  Nonetheless, Pohang went into an early lead.

It would not take long for Sangju to equalize however, as Song Si-woo levelled proceedings just nine minutes later, when he combined well with Yoon Bit-garam who played him into position for the Incheon man on loan for his military service to slot a hard, low drive into the net past Kang Hyun-moo.

It was Sangju who would carry the majority of the play for the rest of the first half, but they were unable to make their possession count and the sides went to the break on even terms.

The military side came out strong for the second half, and were back in front on 55 minutes when Ahn Jin-beom crossed into the box from the right for Song to head in his second of the match.  Pohang, meanwhile, had their best chance to equalize in the 72nd minute when Kim Seung-dae was in a one-on-one with Yoon Bo-sang, who came rushing off his line to negate the chance.  Despite their best efforts, they could not find a way through the rest of the way, and Sangju earned three very meaningful points on the road.

Highlights: here

Incheon United 2-1 Gyeongnam FC

Their last time out against a K League side was one to forget for last season’s runners-up as they fell by a final score of 2-1 to Incheon United, thanks to a pair of first-half goals from Nam Joon-jae and Stefan Mugosa.  Park Gi-dong got on the score sheet for the visitors, but it was not enough in the end, with the Reds staying put on three points after their first two matches. 

The early stages of the match did not see much in the way of attacking football from either side, but Incheon broke the deadlock on twenty minutes when Mugosa played a ball over the top of the Gyeongnam defence for Nam, who calmly walked in and slotted a low shot past Lee Bum-soo.  Mugosa would double his team’s advantage only seven minutes later, tapping in from close range following a good bit of work on the right from Incheon’s new number ten Jiloan Hamad.  The score would remain unchanged going to the break, with the hosts ahead by a comfortable margin.

It didn’t seem at all that Gyeongnam had the presence or wherewithal to threaten Incheon in the second half.  There was, however, a scary moment early on when Jordon Mutch and Heo Yong-joon got tangled up, with the Englishman’s boot making contact with the side of the Korean player’s head, the latter having to leave the pitch in an ambulance.  When play resumed, Incheon was able to defend resolutely despite several forays forward by their opponents, which also forced Jung San to make a few critical stops.  

He was finally solved eleven minutes before the end of regular time as Park Gi-dong pounced on a rebound in front of goal from Luc Castaignos’ shot from out wide, but a complete turn in the score line would prove to be too much for them, as Incheon held on for the win.

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

Pohang has had a distinct advantage in the head-to-head series overall, winning eleven times to Gyeongnam's five, while another five matches have ended without a winner.  Pohang have an eleven goal advantage in terms of differential over that span.   

Last season, the teams split four meetings with both winning twice.  A Leo Gamalho double was enough for Pohang to secure all three points at home in April, while, Gyeongnam won the next two meetings by a combined score of 5-0, once at home, and once away in July and August, respectively.  Pohang would exact a measure of revenge, when the sides met in the Championship round in October, with Pohang edging it by a 2-1 final, with Kang Sang-woo's 76th minute strike proving to be the difference.

Team News

Pohang are reeling a bit to start the season as they look to get their first win at home.  Choi Soon-ho's men are in desperate need of a result; opening the season with three consecutive losses could have disastrous consequences down the road.

They have a very good opportunity to get a win, as they will be facing a Gyeongnam side that has traveled extensively this week, so if they are able to find space in between the midfield and backline to get up top, they just may be able to finally find the back of the net, something they have done only once this season.  All players are expected to be available, but Choi may still be in experimentation mode, so there could be a change or two in comparison to the side that started last time out.

For Gyeongnam, they play on the road again after competing against Johor Darul Ta'zim in Malaysia early in the week, so there is a good chance that the squad could see some rotation due to fatigue.  Their ACL affair was a physical encounter, and the weather conditions did not help much, as players looked a bit worn out towards the end of the match.

The hope is that most of the standard players will start, although Gyeongnam will still be without the services of Kunimoto, who is still recovering from injury.  There are no suspensions in the side, so the final decision on who will start on Sunday afternoon will depend on the judgement of Kim Jong-boo and in particular, how players responded in training this week.

The Adversary


Things have not gone completely according to plan for Gyeongnam in the league thus far this season, as they will look to recover the form which saw them win their opening match against Seongnam.  There may be a bit of concern with regards to their ability to compete on three fronts in 2019.  

They have done fairly well in the Champions League to this point but it has not completely translated into consistent performances in the K League as of yet.  Which Gyeongnam will show up on Sunday afternoon is anyone's guess, although they are operating on very tired legs thanks to a very busy week.

Luc Castaignos has looked to be a good pickup for the side, but it has yet to translate into goals.  He looks a very capable player, but it may still take him a bit of time to adjust to playing in the K League.  He hasn't looked bad at all, but he would definitely like to find the back of the net sooner than later.

Former Crystal Palace man Jordon Mutch also has looked good for the club, providing a tough presence in the middle of the park, which was very much on display against Incheon last weekend, and again versus Johor.  He will be a key man in the middle of the pitch until Kunimoto comes back.

Prediction

Pohang desperately needs a win to get their K League season moving in the right direction, but there has been a problem of execution in front of goal.  Pohang have only found the net once in two matches, while Gyeongnam have looked a little better with three to their credit.

Both defences have looked suspect at times, so the hope is that it will encourage both clubs to press forward and go for it.  Pohang have yet to hit their stride, and Gyeongnam will likely be taking the pitch on sheer willpower on Sunday, so it could prove to be tough going for both clubs in the early stages of the match.

If last year's contests are anything to go by, however, it should still be a tight affair.  Home field could tip favor to the Steelers, but Gyeongnam, despite a subpar performance, did show a lot of resilience despite being outplayed by Johor earlier in the week.  As such, the most likely outcome would see both share the points coming away from this one. 

Prediction: Pohang Steelers 1-1 Gyeongnam FC


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