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Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Gwangju FC

Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Gwangju FC K League 2 Round 22
Off the back of a disappointing home defeat to Seoul E-Land on Sunday, Gwangyang this week host the KLeague 2's leaders Gwangju. Park Jinseop's Yellows boast a terrific record against their Jeolla rivals this term, winning both league games to date and knocking Jeonnam out of the FA Cup. Increasing their lead at the top to nine points last time out, Gwangju travel south following a routine 2-0 victory over Suwon. 

Last Time Out

Jeonnam Dragons 0-1 Seoul E-Land

A vital game to garner some momentum and climb away from the bottom, Jeonnam wasted their opportunity to win a third consecutive home game. The Dragons were let off with a reprieve after just seven minutes. After Park Junhyeok's weak punch failed to clear the box, the ball eventually fell to the feet of E-Land winger Robson Duarte who fluffed his lines from close range. Just two minutes later and Choi Jaehyeon spurned a similarly gilt-edged opportunity at the other end, failing to hit the target with only the keeper to beat. Before the half hour, a well-worked move down the right saw the Leopard's pile men into the box where Won Kijong eventually bundled the ball home after another goalkeeping error. After the interval Yoon Yongho tried his best from outside the box but pulled his effort wide on 73 minutes before linking up with Bruno Baio five minutes later to be left wanting in front of goal once more. A final flourish was threatened by Brazilian striker Baio but he was denied by some last-ditch E-Land defending.

 Choi Jaehyeon battles for the ball in defeat to E-Land.
Highlights




Gwangju FC 2-0 Suwon FC

After an uneventful first half consisting of few chances for either side, Gwangju came out for the second 45 looking more like the team we have become accustomed to this season. With Lee Heegyun back in action on the right wing, it was fellow wide man Willyan Barbosa who put the Yellows in front on 48 minutes. Reading the flight of Rustam Ashurmatov's long punt forward better than Suwon's back line, Willyan broke through to slot past keeper Park Hyungsoon. Gwangju appeared to prioritise a tight back line, perhaps with last weekend's hammering at Anyang in mind, however the game did open up following the goal and the Yellow's needed the fine reflexes of Yoon Pyeonggook to deny An Byongjun's instinctive shot from 12 yards. With legendary Gwangju midfielder Yeo Reum coming off the bench after being dropped, Park Jinseop's side saw out the match relatively comfortably until top scorer Felipe sealed the win in stoppage time collecting Lee Heehyun's blocked shot and firing low and hard into the bottom-right corner.

Highlights



Previous Meetings

Losing their last four straight games against Gwangju, the Yellows are probably not the ideal visitors for a side such as Jeonnam languishing in eighth place. On their first visit south this season in March, Felipe grabbed a brace to hand the Yellow's three points on the road despite Choi Jaehyeon's equaliser. The pairs last meeting came in May with 10-man Gwangju winning 2-0 thanks to Lee Euddeum and Jung Yeongchong. 2017 saw the Dragons have the better of encounters, with a notable 5-0 victory in Gwangyang thanks to Jair Da Silva's hat-trick. Prior to that, Gwangju dominated Jeonnam in their first eight fixtures against each other, not managing to beat their Jeolla neighbours until November 2015, four years after the inaugural game.

The Adversary

Gwangju retained the same shape and majority of their personnel against Suwon following their incredible 7-1 away to Anyang two weeks ago. One rather surprising change was Lim Minhyuk replacing season-long regular and captain Yeo Reum in centre midfield. You would expect the 30-year-old to regain his place fairly quickly considering his importance this term, but due to Gwangju's settled 4-3-2-1 system not much changed in terms of set-up. Lee Heegyun was another to return for the Yellows last time out, getting his first start in a while after a stellar start to the campaign. Preferred to Eom Wonsang out wide, Lee took his chance well thanks to Kim Jeonghwan's absence. A section of fans speculated whether boss Park would opt for a change between the sticks after some questionable goalkeeping led to some of the goals in a now infamous shock defeat. However, sticking with Yoon Pyeonggook turned out to be the correct decision with the former Incheon United man putting in a solid display. While they may not have an unbeaten record to maintain any more, the performance against Suwon was comfortable without being particularly thrilling.

Gwangju's squad celebrate with their South Stand fans after beating Suwon.


What to Watch

With both teams experiencing some tumultuous results in recent weeks, it will be interesting to see how both sides start the game on Saturday. Against Suwon, it was noticeable how Gwangju were keen to keep the opening exchanges tight last weekend in fear of the floodgates opening once more. In Gwangyang, Jeonnam allowed a struggling E-Land side a flurry of early chances, leaving themselves worryingly open at the back. However, facing the league leaders, you would expect them to adopt a more defensive approach from the off. Should the Dragons be able to contain the visitors for the first 20 minutes, perhaps frustration and lingering worries of another poor away day could resurface for the leaders.

Prediction

Having looked to have potentially turned a corner with home wins against Bucheon 1995 and Daejeon Citizen in recent weeks, Jeonnam look set for a third consecutive defeat at the hands of a Gwangju side with something to prove once more. Getting back to basics defensively, Gwangju ground out the kind of win without performing to the best of their abilities needed to clinch a title. I would expect a similar spectacle this time out. Convincing Felipe to sign a three-year contract extension has to go down as one of the K League deals of the season and he would also be a great bet to add to his tally.

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