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Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs. Ulsan Hyundai

Ulsan Hyundai travel to Sangju Sangmu this weekend looking to strengthen their grip on top spot by claiming their first away win of the season.  But with the military club boasting a hundred percent home record so far this year, it is certainly no foregone conclusion.  Ulsan columnist Daniel Croydon previews this top-of-the-table clash for us.  

Last Time Out

Suwon Bluewings 0-0 Sangju Sangmu

10-man Sangju held on for a credible point at Suwon's Big Bird Stadium last Wednesday night.  Left-back Kim Young-bin received his marching orders on 72 minutes after his ridiculously high boot made contact with the face of Suwon sub Yeom Ki-hun.  However, despite their one-man advantage, the home team were unable to find their way through the stubborn Sangju defence.

Suwon's Aussie attacker Adam Taggart had the best chance of a quiet first half. Sangju 'keeper Yoon Bo-sang spilled a routine ball, presenting Taggart with what looked like an easy finish, but the striker's shot was diverted wide by defensive midfielder Kim Kyeong-jae.  Kim Bo-sang made amends for his mistake in the second 45 with a superb save from a Yeom Ki-hun freekick which looked destined to hit the top corner of the net.  Suwon huffed and puffed trying to make their advantage tell, but the game finished scoreless with  Kim Tae-wan of Sangju undoubtedly the happier of the two managers at the final whistle.

Highlights here

Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 FC Seoul

The Horangi took top-spot away from the visiting team with a fairly comfortable victory last Tuesday night. FC Seoul, who arrived at Munsu Stadium unbeaten, never really got out of first gear in the opening half and found themselves one-nil down after just 15 minutes courtesy of a sweet-n-low strike from Ulsan playmaker Mix Diskerud.

The hosts could have had several more before the result was effectively settled on 73 minutes when Junior bagged his third goal of the campaign, heading home a delightful cross from Man of the Match Kim In-sung.  Park Chu-young did narrow Ulsan's lead to just one in injury time when his close-range strike squeezed past 'keeper Cho Su-hyeok, but it turned out to be mere consolation as Ulsan took the three points and leapfrogged Seoul to sit atop the league for the first time this year.

Highlights here

Previous Meetings

Ulsan have an excellent record in this fixture, winning eleven, drawing four, and losing just three of their eighteen games away to the military men. Their last loss was by a 2-0 scoreline back in the opening weeks of the 2016 season when Jeonbuk's Lee Seung-ki, and Kim Do-youp, last of Seongnam, got the goals for Sangju.

The two sides met each other just once last year in Sangju with Ulsan coming away with the victory thanks to a dramatic late goal from substitute Lee Young-jae. The hosts had fought their way back from two nil down and looked set to salvage a point before the diminutive midfielder popped up with a rare diving header three minutes into injury time to send the small band of Ulsan fans home happy.

Team News

Ulsan manager Kim Do-hoon has built his team's recent success on more or less the same spine of players in a 4-5-1 formation.  So, although the Horangi face an important Champions League encounter with Japanese champions Kawasaki Frontale next Wednesday, he is not expected to make many changes ahead of this match.

That means the only real decisions to look out for are who he selects in the wide areas.  Kim In-sung got two assists against FC Seoul but may still drop to the bench with Kim Tae-hwan waiting to fill in on the right.  Teenage midfielder Park Jung-in was impressive in the U22 spot midweek, but Lee Dong-kyung, fresh back from scoring six goals in three games with the Korean U23 squad, may be preferred this time around.

Finally, it will be interesting to see who lines up in nets for the visitors, after Cho Su-hyeok's surprise inclusion for the win over Seoul last Wednesday.  Oh Seung-hoon had looked to have made the shirt his, but Cho's steady performance midweek has now reopened the debate over who exactly is Kim Do-hoon's first choice goalkeeper. 

The Adversary

Having made an excellent start to the season, Sangju have gone off the boil a little of late, picking up a solitary point from their trips to Seoul and Suwon.  They will be happy to return to Sangju Stadium this weekend then where they have won two in a row without conceding a goal.

Manager Kim Tae-wan seems to have settled on an attacking 4-1-3-2 formation which makes the most of midfielders Yoon Bit-garam and Lee Gyu-seong.  Sangju are also one of the few teams to play with two out-and-out strikers in Song Si-woo and Park Yong-ji.  Both players have two goals to their name so far this season and will be doing their best to add to that tally this weekend, although it won't be easy against Ulsan's formidable defence.

Who To Watch

Dave Bulthuis
I could really have chosen either of Ulsan's new centre-back pairing, but many will already be familiar with Yoon Young-sun from his time with the national team, so I've gone for one of the early standout signings from the winter transfer window, Dave Bulthuis.  Considering the fact the Dutch defender had no experience of Asian football before joining Ulsan from SC Heerenveen, he has settled into the K League remarkably well, playing every minute of the Horangi's domestic and continental games this season.

The 28-year-old has quickly won over the fans due to his enthusiastic persona off the pitch, as well as his outstanding commitment and teamwork on it.  Having already shown he keep can keep the likes of Hulk and Oscar quiet, Bulthuis looks to have a big part to play in Ulsan's season. 


Sangju have shown they are no pushovers with two comfortable home wins over Incheon and Gangwon, but Ulsan surely represent their toughest challenge yet.  Despite their dual-threat upfront, they are sure to find it hard to create many chances against Bulthuis and Yoon. Kim Tae-wan may have to rely on a bit of magic from the likes of Yoon Bit-garam if his team are to get anything from this game.

Ulsan though, are notoriously wasteful away from home, especially if they take the lead. They have already failed to make the most of their chances at Daegu and Gangwon, leaving with single points when they probably should have taken three.  So I don't expect this to be an easy afternoon for the Horangi. However, I do expect them to get the job done this time and register their first away win of the season - third time will be the charm for Kim Do-hoon's side.

Dan's Prediction: Sangju Sangmu 1-2 Ulsan Hyundai

K League 1 Round 6 Preview: here

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