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Preview: Gwangju FC vs Busan IPark

K League 1 Preview: Gwangju FC vs Busan IPark

Gwangju FC and Busan IPark meet this Saturday with the K League 2's top two sides involved in a real title race. The Yellows can put daylight between themselves and their south coast rivals with a win at the Guus Hiddink Stadium, but a Busan victory will bridge the gap to just two points. K League United's Todd Wilde previews.

Last Time Out

Bucheon 1995 1-1 Gwangju 

Gwangju dropped points away to a spirited Bucheon side which had previously only taken two points from their last five games. Gwangju sprinted out of the blocks, going ahead in the 21st minute. A beautiful outswinging corner from Doo Hyun-seok was met by golden boy Felipe, who jumped highest to tower above the defenders and power a trademark bullet header past the keeper to give his side an early lead.

Bucheon responded well, with Moon Ki-han and Marlon de Jesus going close through long-range efforts, before Moon found Marlon in plenty of space on the edge of the box. Unmarked, the Ecuadorian proceeded to strike a clean powerful shot across the keeper into the bottom right corner of the goal, equalising at 1-1.

Gwangju proceeded to spend the majority of the next 65 minutes testing Choi Cheol-won in the Bucheon goal, who put in a man of the match performance to prevent Gwangju from breaking the deadlock. It was not without effort from the away side, as Felipe looked every inch the top class frontman that is strong favourite for league MVP. He first acted as a foil for Doo Hyun-seok to strike in space from six yards, before hitting a powerful half volley at the back post from a poorly defended corner. Eom Won-sang then set up the Brazilian with a whipped in cross, but his bullet header, like the two previous chances, were all met by fantastic reaction saves from the Bucheon stopper.

At the death, Bucheon though they had won it, as Marlon first hit the bar as his deft header met an inswinging free-kick, before the impressive Ecuadorian's first-time volley from Kim Chan-hee's header was parried into the path of Kim, who sent the net ruffling. Sadly for Bucheon's supporters, their celebrations were premature as the ball went the wrong side of the post, and the scores would finish 1-1.



Busan IPark 2-0 Daejeon Citizen

Busan recorded another unconvincing but important victory to once again cut the deficit to Gwangju at the top of the table.

The result could have been very different had an early VAR call been interpreted differently by the officiating team. Busan's number one Choi Pil-soo rushed out of his box to pressure Citizen striker Matheus Pato, who had met a through ball which easily split Busan's backline. It appeared at first that the keeper had taken the player not the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box, but video replays showed the Brazilian had turned up for the diving competition in Gwangju a month late and was cautioned for simulation.

Daejeon threatened to break the deadlock just before the interval, their dangerman Park In-hyeok showing great intelligence to set up a one-two with Aurelian Chitu, successfully bypassing the stationary centre-back Jeong Ho-jeong, but Park tamely put his one v one chance well wide.

It didn't take long after half time for Busan to step up a gear and take the lead. Han Ji-ho's mazy 40 yard run from the left wing was abruptly stopped as he cut inside onto his right foot, An Sang-hyun taking the player not the ball. Park Jong-woo stepped up to curve a beautiful free-kick into the top right corner from 30 yards out. Busan had the impetus and looked to turn the screw.

The return of South Korean international Lee Jeong-hyeop from injury has allowed youngster Lee Dong-jun to prosper once again, and the dynamic duo linked up several times to create chances throughout the game. Having combined to create a couple of speculative but well-saved chances in the first half, Lee Jeong-hyeop met Park Jong-woo's corner at the front post, flicking it on for an unmarked Lee Dong-jun to tap home for 2-0. Han Ji-ho and substitute Kim Jin-gyu had golden chances to add to the scoreline, but Daejeon held on to limit the deficit to two goals.


Previous Meetings

Amazingly, the past five meetings between these sides have culminated in a score draw, with the two meetings this season finishing 1-1. Both of those occasions felt like a point salvaged for Gwangju supporters, as Felipe struck back after Busan had taken the lead earlier in the second half. The last meeting was a particular psychological blow for Busan, as they missed a chance to go top at home by conceding an equaliser in stoppage time through a soft penalty, two scenarios which Busan fans have become accustomed to this season.

Overall, Gwangju have four wins and Busan have two wins from 14 competitive games between the sides.

Team News

Gwangju

The big news for the home side is the return of Choi Jun-hyeok and Park Jeong-soo, who are once again available for selection after serving a one game suspension against Daejeon. The Jeolla-namdo outfit failed to fashion many chances from central areas against Citizen, and they may feel a reasonably fresh pair of legs through the centre can give them the edge against this week's opposition. Goalkeeper Choi Bong-jin has returned from his spell of military service at Asan, and may possibly be involved in the match day squad.

Though there is no doubt the Yellows would not be top without the goals and presence of Felipe, the accuracy and variety of their wingplay has been pivotal in getting the best out of their target man. Doo Hyun-seok's side-splitting passes and close interchange with the Brazilian is likely to cause chaos for IPark on Saturday, particularly given he is likely to be marked by Jeong Ho-jeong, who has has only recently regained a starting place at centre-back.

Busan IPark

A potential striker crisis has been averted, as Lee Jeong-hyeop is once again available for selection after fully recovering from injury and Soma Novothny returns from a one match suspension. Coach Cho Duk-jae has a very important decision to take in whether to persevere with the 5-2-3 formation the team has used in recent games, which has provided an option for Kim Moon-hwan to join attacks as a wing-back, but which has somewhat stifled the attacking instincts of creative players. Cho may elect to add more bodies in midfield, which could lead for a recall for Seo Yong-duk or Kim Jin-gyu and a change to a more conventional four at the back.

Regardless of formation, it is frontman Lee Jeong-hyeop who will be pivotal if Busan are to have any chance of picking up three points. This season has proven to be a renaissance for the striker, who has provided far more than 11 goals this season, dropping deep to build attacks. His hold-up play and passing have allowed other players to counter-attack at speed, which may prove useful if Busan find themselves with a one-goal advantage over Gwangju for the third time this season. Otherwise, his presence at set-pieces and instinct in the 18-yard box will require defenders to constantly mark the forward, taking the pressure off the pacey Lee Dong-jun and intelligent Han Ji-ho and Romulo.

Prediction

This is likely to be a tense and competitive encounter between comfortably the two best sides in the division in the first half of 2019. The pressure remains on Gwangju, a side which have dropped points against weaker sides in their past two appearances, yet created enough opportunities in both games to comfortably win on another day.

Busan will be heartened by an opportunity to close what was a nine point gap to two, but may be wounded by their failure to close out previous games against their title rivals. Yet, in Felipe and Romulo, both sides have players capable of scoring barnstorming goals out of nothing, and it may require a moment of magic for either side to take a victory on Saturday.

Predicted Score:
Gwangju FC 1-1 Busan IPark

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