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Preview: Busan IPark vs Jeonnam Dragons

K League 2 Preview: Busan IPark vs Jeonnam Dragons
With a third of the season completed, Busan IPark are well placed in the race for automatic promotion, just two points off the summit. Their next opponents at the Gudeok Stadium are the Jeonnam Dragons, a team which has struggled to pick up points in 2019, but one of only two teams to have defeated IPark this season.

Last Time Out

Busan travelled to Bucheon 1995 last Monday, and were able to maintain pressure on league leaders Gwangju with a hard-fought 3-1 win at Bucheon Stadium.

With Kim Moon-hwan suspended, his replacement at full back Park Joon-gang made an immediate impact, his 25 yard half volley stretching Bucheon goalkeeper Lee Yeong-chang to make a fingertip save onto his left post. Busan peppered the goal throughout the first half, with Diego and Lee Dong-jun missing a host of chances from within the penalty area. A pinpoint cross from Kim Chi-woo picked out Lee Jeong-Hyeop unmarked in the 39th minute to head home from 10 yards, giving Busan a deserved lead at the break.

Busan doubled their lead early in the second half as Park Jong-woo's defence-splitting pass found Park Joon-gang on the edge of the six-yard box. The defender cleverly drew the Bucheon goalkeeper and centre-back Lee In-kyu out of position before passing to Lee Heong-Hyeop, who placed the ball into an empty net for his second goal of the game.

It was not plain sailing though for Busan, with the introduction of Kim Chan-hee giving Bucheon a physical outlet in the final third of the pitch. The striker clawed a goal back for the home side in the 65th minute, rising highest to head home for a corner. He went on to cause Busan no end of problems in the second half, forcing Busan's much-maligned goalkeeper Kim Hyung-Keun into a string of fine saves, as Bucheon pushed hard for an equaliser. Yet it was another substitute that made the game safe, as Busan's Kim Jin-gyu's surging run from midfield met Park Joon-gang's cross brilliantly from 20 yards out, placing into the bottom left corner.

Jeonnam travelled to Daejeon last weekend, taking a surprise 2-1 win for their first away victory since 1st September 2018 (against Sangju). Jeonnam capitalised on an abject Citizen display, whose manager Ko Jong-soo paid the price with his job.

The victory for Jeonnam was all the more impressive after Daejeon took the lead just before the break. Hae Soon-jong met a looping through ball at the back post, lobbing a half volley into the far corner cleverly beyond the keeper.

It was Jeonnam's introduction of Kim Young-uk that then turned the game in the second half. Almost immediately after coming on, the Dragons equalised through the forward. A cross-cum-shot from Kwak Kwang-son hit the far post then ricocheted back across goal to the unmarked Kim, who placed the ball into an empty net.

Both teams pushed for a winner, which came in the dying embers of the game. Daejeon's Park Soo-ill hit the bar from a direct 30 yard free kick, and were then caught napping as Jeonnam immediately counter-attacked. A clever attacking move was completed as Jeong Jae-hee drew the keeper wide of goal before passing to Han Chan-hee, who slotted into an empty goal to shock the home team.

Previous Meetings

In the reverse fixture, Jeonnam hosted Busan on a brisk Saturday afternoon in the middle of April, and produced a tactical masterclass to upset the odds. IPark were constantly frustrated against a very tight and well organised Jeonnam, who deserved their 1-0 win from Kim Geon-ung's header.

Jeonnam are the only team to prevent Busan from scoring in their first 12 league games, and one of two (with Anyang) to have defeated IPark. Busan average almost three goals a game from their other 11 fixtures.

The two teams had previously met in 2017, when Busan won 3-1 at then K League 1 side Jeonnam in the KFA Cup, as part of their cup run which took them all the way to the final.

Overall Record: Busan Wins - 5, Jeonnam Wins - 6, Draws - 7.

Team News

Busan's win over Bucheon was widely seen as a potential banana skin for IPark after they were fortunate to escape with a point earlier in the season, and it is very clear that this Busan side is growing in belief and improving on a week by week basis. Manager Cho Duk-jae will have a full squad at his disposal, and will probably rotate his attacking players to keep them fresh with a long season ahead.

The biggest question for the manager will be whether to recall National Team full back Kim Moon-hwan after serving a suspension for three yellow cards. His replacement Park Joon-gang was solid against Bucheon and dangerous going forward, providing two assists. However, Kim Moon-hwan is possibly too good to be left out of a championship chasing side. Kim Jin-gyu will be pushing for a recall to the starting line up after impressive cameos against Bucheon and Seoul E-Land, and will likely be the first substitute introduced if he does not start.

The Adversary

The Dragons unexpected win away to Daejeon last weekend saw them stop a three game losing streak and may be the mental spark the team needs to face off against promotion contenders Busan Monday night. Manager Fabiano Soares seems locked into the 4-3-3 formation, but after weeks of frustration with Bruno providing next to nothing up top, finally gave way and brought in some of the team's promising youth. 23-year-old Han Seung-wook was given just his second start of the season and played out wide opposite usual winger Jeong Jae-hee with 22-year-old Kim Gyeong-min playing up top in his first start of the season. The three found a decent rhythm early on and created a number of chances before Kim Gyeong-min was replaced by the rarely used Wanderson De Macedo. Given the result last weekend, look for all four to feature in this match again, though likely in a more counter attacking method as the 4-3-3 will either act more like a 5-2-3 with a deep lying defensive midfielder, or will be swapped entirely for the 3-4-3 Soares used last time against Busan to great effect.

- Ryan Walters

Who To Watch

Busan IPark - Kim Hyung-keun

Busan's biggest issue this season has arguably been at the back, as Kim Hyung-Keun and last season's starting goalkeeper Koo Sang-min have been involved in a heated battle for a starting position. The 25 year old stopper has been criticised by some fans at the start of the season for some questionable goalkeeping, being directly at fault for goals against Anyang, Bucheon and Gwangju. However, a string of impressive performances between the sticks, capped by a man of the match display against Bucheon, has allowed Kim to make the position his own. He is likely to be needed against Jeonnam, a team which is underperforming and will be looking to send out a message against Busan.

Jeonnam Dragons - Choi Hyo-jin

Jeonnam's veteran fullback Choi Hyo-jin had a field day in the reverse fixture at Gwangyang, rolling back the years to contribute at both ends of the pitch. Expect him to be ustilised as a wing back and to get involved often in Dragons counter attacks, with his link-up play requiring Kim Chi-woo to be at his best to snuff out counter attacks. At the other end of the pitch, Busan has an array of counter attacking talent, and Choi may be targeted for his lack of pace by Lee Dong-jun. Jeonnam's hopes of a second clean sheet against Busan this season will require a standout performance from the 35 year old.


Jeonnam are the only team to have caused Busan serious problems since the opening day, and it is likely they will look to keep their team tight at the back once again on Monday night, trying to steal an away goal on the counter. Of course, Busan's firepower may be enough to get them over the line, having scored 3 times more goals than Jeonnam this season, and the result of this game will probably rest on whichever team opens the scoring. This is unlikely to be a goal fest that Busan fans have become so accustomed to this season.

Busan IPark 1-0 Jeonnam Dragons

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