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Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Jeju United

Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Jeju United K League 1
Pohang Steelers picked up three points on Wednesday night in beating Gangwon FC by a single goal courtesy of Song Ming-kyu under ten minutes before the first half interval for their second win of the season.  The Steelers' opponents this Sunday, Jeju United, have not managed a win in their first five matches of the campaign as they prepare to make their first trip to the Steelyard this season.  United drew with Seongnam in midweek after taking the lead just after the half hour mark thanks to Tiago's first goal of the season.  KLU's Branko Belan looks ahead to the match and what to expect from both sides.

Match: Pohang Steelers vs Jeju United
Venue: Pohang Steelyard
Kickoff: Sunday April 7th, 2019; 14:00 KST

Last Time Out

Pohang Steelers 1-0 Gangwon FC

Pohang picked up their second win of the season with a narrow 1-0 success against Gangwon FC on Wednesday night.  The teams traded half chances for the first chunk of the match until it looked like Gangwon would take the lead, as Oh Beom-seok's overhead kick found the back of the net, but it was called back for offside after review.

Pohang would come to life afterwards, as they created a flurry of chances, one in particular which would see them hit the front on 37 minutes.  After David Da Silva had his shot just barely kept out by Kim Ho-jun, the next passage of play would see the Steelers take the lead when a deflected pass fell into the path of Song Min-kyu, who coolly slotted home off the post.  It could have been two just before halftime, but Jung Jae-young's headed effort was kept out by some good reflexes by Kim, and Da Silva's follow up was nodded over the bar.

The second half saw its share of chances as well, but once Uros Deric was substituted just thirteen minutes into the second half, Gangwon were less of a threat going forward.  Kim Seung-dae could have doubled the home side's advantage on 77 minutes, but he was foiled by the feet of Kim Ho-jun, who made several saves on the night just to keep his team in it.  Jung Jo-gook had perhaps Gangwon's best chance of the second half, when he beat the offside trap, but put his curling strike just wide of the post.  Pohang would hold on for all three points in the end, and now move to six points on the year.

Highlights: here

Seongnam FC 1-1 Jeju United

The midweek matchup at Tancheon represented the first time since the 2016 season that the two clubs had met in the top flight of Korean football.  The hosts enjoyed the bulk of the possession in the first half, but could not take advantage of their chances in front of goal.  Gong Min-hyun and Mathias looked dangerous for them in the early going, and Kim Min-hyeok should have had them in front after only a quarter of an hour, but his close range chipped effort went the wrong side of the post.

The islanders would be the ones to score first, as Elias Aguilar and Tiago played a one-two of sorts in the Seongnam penalty area, with the Costa Rican dribbling past a defender, only for the ball to fall kindly into the path of the Brazilian, who swept home a low shot from inside the six yard box.

Seongnam would continue to work, and they would be rewarded for their efforts when Mathias leveled the match in the early stages of the second half following another good spell of possession by the hosts.  They were the better team in the second half, but ultimately could not find their way to goal again, and the sides would share the spoils at the end of the ninety.  The result means that Jeju is still waiting for its first win of the season, and stay bottom of the table on three points, with Seongnam only a point above them.

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

The teams met four times last season, three of which were during the regular season, and once in the Championship Round at the end of October.  The islanders had the edge overall, winning twice and drawing the others, with the first win coming in late April at the same ground where the two teams will meet this weekend.  Last year marked the first time in three years that Jeju had won there, and they will hope to match that same success and get their first win of 2019.

The last two meetings in the regular season both ended in draws, while the final time they met, Jeju ran out 2-1 winners thanks to a late go ahead goal from Lee Kwang-seon with less than ten minutes to go.  If luck finally shines on the visitors, they can start to turn things in a positive direction.

Team News

Despite an up and down start to the season, there have been some good performers for Pohang thus far, namely David Da Silva, who has shown himself to be a danger in front of goal, having scored twice already, as well as Kim Seung-dae, who many feel is primed for a big year, and Wanderson, who came back to the club this season after being on loan at Jeonnam Dragons last season, and has picked up an assist thus far in five matches.

Choi Soon-ho knows he has a lot of good pieces at his disposal, and a win against Jeju would put them in the right direction moving forward.  Ha Chang-rae's suspension was over and he was eligible for selection against Gangwon, but he was kept out of the lineup altogether.  He could be in the mix for the match against Jeju, however.  Of note, Kim Seung-dae and Yoo Jun-soo both received yellow cards in the Jeonbuk match.  The former played while the latter was kept on the bench on Wednesday night.  Both should still be in the running to see minutes on Sunday afternoon.

Cho Sung-hwan made four changes to the lineup which faced Ulsan last Friday night, with Kwon Han-jin coming back into defence to anchor the back three between Kim Seung-woo and Kim Dong-woo.  Elias Aguilar returned to the starting eleven after being rested following international duty with Costa Rica.  Kim Sung-ju started on the left of midfield, while it was Tiago's turn to have a chance to partner with Yun Il-lok up top.

There were spurts of offence at times, but the team still has to find its consistency and establish more of a possession game to be successful.  If they have to rely on their defensive unit to keep them in matches, it is certainly going to be a long season in 2019.

Park Jin-po did not play against Seongnam, and his status is still up in the air for the weekend as no new information has been made available at the current time.  However, not a single Jeju player went into the book on Wednesday night, so all other players will likely be available for selection for the Sunday afternoon round six encounter.

The Adversary

Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Jeju United K League 1 Round 6

The beginning of 2019 is looking a lot like the first five weeks of last season when the islanders needed a bit of time before they got rolling.  They finally started turning a corner once they built a bit of momentum by winning four of six matches in the month of April, and it carried over into May where they stayed hot, but the World Cup break seemed to derail them completely as they endured a summer mired in a fifteen match winless slump following a win over Suwon in early July.

Last season, one of the major problems was a lack of additions in the winter transfer window, but that certainly has not been the case this year.  Reinforcements have been brought in, and, in good numbers, but many of them have already succumbed to injuries or are still recovering, and, as such, the chemistry that the coaching staff had hoped to build early on will take a bit more time.

Ideally, it would be preferable to see them turn a corner before the spring is out so that they can have a chance to position themselves better in the middle part of the campaign.  The talent is obviously there, but they need to do a better job in terms of staying healthy, or continuity will be very difficult to come by for what is a very talented group.

Tactically, it has been good to see Cho going with two strikers up top, but he needs to make a decision soon with regards to who will be the primary choice to partner with Yun Il-lok, on whom he has placed lofty expectations this season.  

Some would say that Tiago is more of a natural striker, but Magno is also certainly capable of finding the net.  If they continue to play in the 3-4-1-2 alignment they took the pitch in against Seongnam, that one spot is likely cemented for Lee Chang-min as long as he is healthy and playing well, so it could become a battle not only for a starting eleven place but also playing time as the season goes on.

Prediction

Pohang have been a bit up and down to start the season, but have looked better of late, with their 4-1 win over Gyeongnam as their standout performance so far this season.  They are also coming off a win against Gangwon in midweek, so it is safe to say that they will definitely have an edge going into this one.

Jeju on the other hand, have not been as lucky, as their results thus far have left a lot to be desired.  With some of the new faces back in the side, their fortunes may finally take a turn for the better, but playing away from home for six consecutive matches to open the season has not been kind to them, and it is difficult to see them being able to take all three points from this one.  They have played well defensively for the most part, but still find themselves struggling to put the ball in the back of the net.  If they can take advantage of the fact that results favored them in the head to head last season to give them somewhat of an edge, they may be able to escape this one with a draw.

Prediction: Pohang Steelers 1-1 Jeju United

K League 1 Round 6 Preview: here

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