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Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Busan IPark

Table-proppers Jeonnam Dragons host second-place Busan IPark in round eight of K League 2 at Gwangyang Football Stadium this Saturday afternoon. Can Jeonnam win for only the second time this season or will Busan become the fifth side in 2019 to return home with something from Dragon Dungeon? Aodan Halligan and Todd Wilde preview this weekend's game.

Game: Jeonnam Dragons v Busan IPark
Venue: Gwangyang Football Stadium
Kickoff: Saturday 3 pm

Last Time Out

K League 2's bottom sides, Jeonnam Dragons and Seoul E-Land FC, couldn't be separated after over 90 minutes of action in Gwangyang on Monday, as the home side failed to hold onto a lead for the second game in succession. Jeonnam got off to a lightning quick start and club captain Choi Hyo-jin was once again heavily involved. The veteran left back's right-wing cross picked out Bruno in the penalty area in the third minute - and the Brazilian's flick-on was stabbed home by Kim Young-wook inside the six-yard box. However, despite being presented with several good chances, the Dragons failed to add to their tally and Alex broke their hearts in the 92nd minute when he headed Douglas Coutinho's right-wing cross into the bottom-left hand corner.

Full Time: Jeonnam Dragons 1 Seoul E-Land FC 1

Highlights: here

Busan IPark had no such complications though as they eased to a three-nil victory over Ansan Greeners to record their third win on the spin. Busan opened the scoring in the 51st minute through Lee Jeong-hyeop, the forward reacting first to a hopeful punt into Ansan's penalty box before sliding the ball into the bottom-right hand corner. The southerners doubled their advantage ten minutes later when Rômulo's curling right foot-strike from the edge of the penalty box deflected in off Ansan defender Lee in-jae. Then, deep into injury time, Lee Dong-jun slammed the ball into the top-left corner of the net from around twelve yards out to complete the scoring, after Ansan had been caught trying to play out from the back.

Full Time: Busan IPark 3 Ansan Greeners 0

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

Jeonnam and Busan last met in August 2017 in the quarter-final of the KFA Cup, with the latter coming out on top that day by three goals to one. Busan raced out of the blocks and Yang Juna's own goal put them ahead in the first minute. Kim Young-wook leveled proceedings eight minutes later though, and it looked like the teams would go in tied at the break. But, Léo Mineiro's 41st minute strike put the visitors back in front and Choi Seung-in secured their place in the semi-final in the 75th minute.

However, having won 16 of the 38 fixtures between the sides, Jeonnam hold the better head-to head record. Busan boast just 12 wins, while the other 10 games were tied. 

Team News

Jeonnam head coach Fabiano Soares continues to tinker with his team selection, and with key players only beginning to return from injury Jeonnam fans may have to wait a while yet before they see a more settled team. Kwak Kwang-seon was the latest player to make himself available and the former Suwon Bluewings star started against Seoul E-Land FC on Monday. Surprisingly though, the defender was employed as the Dragons' pivot in midfield and he could be used there again on Saturday after coming through the 90 minutes unscathed.

Meanwhile, Jung Jae-hee was also used in an unfamiliar role against Seoul E-Land. The right-winger replaced Lee Seul-chan on the right of Soares's back four and thus it'll be interesting to see if he retains that position against Busan.

Soares's sparing use of Han Chan-hee baffles most supporters and the Korean under 23 international has only played 268 minutes in K League 2 this season (less than three full games). Jeonnam looked a lot more dangerous when Han replaced Choi Jae-hyun at the start of the second half against Seoul on Monday so he should be in line for a recall here. Unfortunately for the Dragons, Macedo, Vedran Jugović and Ha Tae-goon are all unlikely to feature this Saturday because of injuries.

The Adversary

After an unconvincing start to the season, Busan IPark have now won three games on the bounce and sit one point behind K League 2 leaders Gwangju FC. The current top scorers in Korean professional football, Busan will fancy their chances of adding to the 17 goals they've accumulated so far in 7 games.

There are signs Busan are becoming more disciplined at both ends of the pitch, as they worked hard to earn a 3-0 victory against a very well organised Ansan Greeners outfit last Sunday. The south coast side laboured to find a breakthrough as the Green Wolves crowded the middle of the pitch, and so turned to recalled veteran left back Kim Chi-woo to create the opener. Ansan defender Kim Yeon-soo misjudged a bouncing through ball down the left wing, allowing Lee Jung-hyub to slip in behind to smash home clinically from 20 yards. Romulo soon after scored his sixth of the season, his 30 yard drive taking a wicked deflection off the heel of hapless Ansan defender Kim Yeon-soo, leaving the keeper stranded. Lee Dong-joon added a third in stoppage time, as Lee and substitute Kwon Jong-hyun's high defensive press forced Ansan defender Kim Jin-rae into an error, and the two combined to score off a rapid counter attack.

Perhaps most encouragingly for Busan, this was the first game this season that the club's strongest back four on paper has played together, resulting in the team's first clean sheet. It is likely that they will remain unchanged against Jeonnam, although club captain Han Ji-ho may be preferred to Diego on the left wing, and there are still questions regarding the form of goalkeeper Kim Hyung-geun. Jeonnam's best hopes may rest on their success of creating clear chances anywhere in the final third of the pitch, as Kim has looked vulnerable attempting to save long range shots so far this season.

- Todd Wilde

Who to Watch

Nick Ansell's first taste of K League action for Jeonnam Dragons against Daejeon Citizen on March 10th is surely something he'll never forget. For not only was the 25 year-old central defender one quarter of a new back four (after head coach Fabiano Soares decided to ditch all of his defenders following the opening day trashing by Asan Mugungwha), in a new country and a new league, he was also just twenty two minutes into his debut when he was clattered by his own keeper Lee Ho-seung, breaking a rib in the process. Ansell didn't return to the starting eleven until the match against Suwon FC on April 13th, but he's already showing signs that he should be a key player for Jeonnam this season. The six-foot-one former Melbourne Victory defender is composed on the ball and excellent in the air. And since he now has a couple of games under his belt, he could be just what the Dragons need to thwart a potent Busan IPark side.  


Even though the Jeonnam Dragons are undefeated in three matches, they're rooted to the bottom of the table and have only won once in the league this season (a 1-0 victory over Anyang on March 17th). In contrast, Busan IPark are second from top, top scorers in the division and on a three-game winning streak. So Jeonnam will really need to be on their game to prevail. Ultimately though, the visitors should have too much firepower for the ever-changing Dragons' defence.

Jeonnam Dragons 1-3 Busan IPark

K League 2 Round 8 Preview: here

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