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Preview: Gyeongnam FC vs Sangju Sangmu

K League 1 Preview: Gyeongnam FC vs Sangju Sangmu

It is still early days in the league, but neither team meeting in Changwon this weekend has won their last three games. In the case of Gyeongnam FC, the atmosphere surrounding the squad has cooled down a lot as the team lost in the last ACL match against Kashima. Lining up against them is a Sangju Sangmu side that also has not won since their first three consecutive wins at the start of the season. With both teams needing a rebound victory, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top on Saturday afternoon.

Last Time Out

Gyeongnam FC 2-3 Kashima Antlers

For Gyeongnam FC, it was a game that they will regret. At the same time, it was a game where people could see problems with the home team. The fact that the Reds allowed three goals while leading 2-0, may point to problems with the players' concentration, defense and goalkeeper. Kashima even showed their own concentration by scoring two of their goals in additional time, even though one of their players was sent off.

In the 30th minute, Kento Misao's shot went past the goal post and, just before the end of the first half, Kashima's keeper Kwoun Suntae was carried away with an injury when he collided with Lee Kwangjin. Besides this, the first half went without any significant gains on both teams.

In the 10th minute of the second half, Kunimoto's fast cross hit Kashima defender Tomoya Inukai in the head and deflected into his own goal, handing Gyeongnam FC a 1-0 lead. In the 70th minute, Kim Seungjoon faced a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper, but the goalkeeper made a good save but, from the ensuing corner kick, Jordan Mutch connected with Kunimoto's cross via a volley and scored the second goal for the home side. In the 75th minute, however, Song Juhun tried to block the cross but, unfortunately, he too scored an own goal. In the 83rd minute, own goal-scorer Tomoya Inukai was sent off with a second yellow card, and the Reds had a numerical advantage. Kashima, however, strongly pushed Gyeongnam regardless. Finally, in the 90th minute, Kashima tied the game with a volley by Takeshi Kanamori. Then in the 92nd minute, Serginho scored a headed pass from Itsuki Oda and ended the game.

Highlights: here

Sangju Sangmu FC 0-1 Ulsan Hyundai

Sangju Sangmu FC invited Ulsan, the top-ranked team in the league, to face a tough game at home. From the first half, the home team pushed hard on Ulsan, but failed to finish in front of the net, showing frustration. The players seemed to have lost their way of scoring because of a series of previous scoreless matches. Rather, Ulsan Hyundai's quick counterattack knocked on the home team's goal but unfortunately for them, no one answered and both sides ended the first half at 0-0.

The attack by the home side was blunt. Their defense seemed fine, but they allowed Joo Minkyu to score just two minutes into the second half. Kim Bokyung passed to Joo Minkyu as the defenders failed to handle the ball properly, and Joo Minkyu scored with confidence. After allowing the loss of a goal, the home team continued to attack, but failed to get past Ulsan's defense. Yoon Bitgaram's mid-range shot flew high and missed. In the 91st minute, Song Sooyoung appeared to fall down in penalty area to earn a penalty kick, but the decision was reversed after the referee confirmed it through VAR. The game ended in a 0-1 victory for the away team.

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

The two teams first faced each other in 2011, and have an equal record of seven wins, one draw and seven losses. In the case of last season, however, Gyeongnam shows strong performance against Sangju, with all three league matches taking victories. The Reds have a narrow lead over the military side at home, with four wins, one draw and three losses. However, since Gyeongnam no longer have a Marcão who showed fantastic performances against Sangju last season, the home team will have to find a new way to score this season. Kunimoto also showed a decent performance and scored against the military side last season. Sangju Sangmu suffered three consecutive defeats last year, but manager Kim Taewan will have made a lot of preparations to try and earn a different result this time.

Team News

Sangju Sangmu lost to Ulsan 0-1 last time, but they managed to fend off Ulsan's offense. No injuries were reported and with enough rest, the military side's starting XI will probably remain the same as the previous match.

On the other hand, Gyeongnam's Luc Castaignos is still unavailable due to injuries. Also, the rest period was shorter than the away team's as they played the ACL game during the week. The offense and midfield are expected to be no different from the last Kashima match. However, Kwak Taehwi is expected to start on the field in order to add stability to the defensive line. If the Reds lose the match, it is expected that they will be relocated to the bottom of the league table. Therefore, just like the previous game, the offense is expected to be centred around Kunimoto.

The Adversary

Despite their lofty position of fourth, Sangju Sangmu were expected to struggle at the start of the season and may still find themselves embroiled in a relegation scrap come the end of the campaign and after some of their key talent deserts them in August to return to their parent clubs. As always, they are a side playing out a season that effectively ends for them three-quarters of the way through the year, but this is what makes their current standing so impressive. Despite only six rounds gone, they have already amassed a quarter of the points they acquired last year.

This is largely thanks to Kim Taewan's attacking philosophy. Given the nature of the club, the manager is often left to play the cards he is dealt with the club having no say on transfer dealings but rather waiting to see who is due a military callup. With attacking talents like Yoon Bitgaram, Song Siwoo and Shim Dongwoon within the ranks, the team has tended to focus on pushing forward.

This makes their more recent performances more disappointing. Granted, last time out they faced an Ulsan side that are top of the table for good reason, but struggling for goals against Suwon Bluewings and, to some degree, FC Seoul perhaps indicates that their initial form was perhaps the exception to the rule. Regardless, given Gyeongnam's defence currently being the worst in the league, not to mention the potential rotations after their midweek Champions League commitments, should offer encouragement to Sangju's probable 4-4-2 diamond formation.

By Matthew Binns

Who To Watch

Gyeongnam FC - Kunimoto

This season, former U20 Japan National Team midfielder, Takahiro Kunimoto has a very large role at Gyeongnam FC. Negueba's form has not returned yet, and Jordon Mutch seems to need a little more time to adjust to the league perfectly. Although the Reds lost the last ACL match, Kunimoto and Jordan Mutch's abilities were the most brilliant at Changwon. In the upcoming match against Sangju, if Kunimoto can break free of pressure from the military sides’ midfielders and give a sharp pass to the front, the Reds have a high possibility to win the match.

Sangju Sangmu FC – Song Siwoo

The players who scored the most goals in Sangju Sangmu this season are Park Yongji and Song Siwoo. They both scored two goals each. In particular, it is necessary to pay attention to Song Siwoo. This winger is a player who can break through defenders and score goals with his ability. Considering that Gyeongnam FC's defenders are weak, Song's breakthrough could be a big threat. His recent form has been a bit sluggish, but the Reds shouldn't overlook Song Siwoo’s fast speed.


Gyeongnam FC's GF this season is the second after Jeonbuk's 12 goals with 10 goals, which means the team shows great performances in terms of offense. Yet, the Reds’ GA this season is 13 and the team has allowed the most goals in the league so far. This implies the Reds have a problem with their defense. In contrast, the military sides have a weak offense instead of solid defense. In particular, the away team failed to score in the past three matches. Considering Gyeongnam’s weak defense, the visiting team might score yet, considering the home team’s offense, Sangju will likely suffer from Kunimoto’s attack.

Predicted Score: Gyeongnam FC 2-1 Sangju Sangmu FC

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