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Preview: Busan IPark v Ansan Greeners

Busan IPark, Kim Jeong-hyeop
Busan IPark enter a run of three consecutive home games at the Gudeok Stadium this Sunday, all of which they must win to have any hope of finishing as 2019 K League 2 Champions. Their first hurdle is an exciting Ansan Greeners side on an erratic run of form, but in pole position to lock down fourth position and a post-season playoff spot.

Overview



Source: Soccerway

Last Time Out

Busan IPark 2-0 Suwon FC

Ten man Busan IPark kept up the pressure on league leaders Gwangju with a 2-0 victory over a disjointed Suwon FC side. A season high attendance of 7,724 witnessed a commanding first half performance from a Busan side that ended the game as a competitive contest before the interval, despite playing two thirds of the match at a one man disadvantage.

IPark went ahead in the ninth minute, as Kim Jin-kyu’s clever run met a quick Lee Dong-jun throw with the Suwon defence disorganised and out of position. Kim showed great awareness to smartly flick the ball between the defensive line and goalkeeper, allowing Lee Jeong-hyeop to tap into an empty net. Busan crafted further opportunities early on, with Kim Jin-kyu and Kim Chi-woo both forcing the keeper into excellent reflex saves, before Busan found themselves down to ten men. Attacking a corner, Alexsandar Šušnjar recklessly raised an elbow at Yoon Jun-sung, and the Australian international was correctly adjudged by VAR to have committed violent conduct.  

Unfortunately for Suwon, they were unable to make this numerical advantage count and found themselves two goals down on the stroke of half time. Lee Dong-jun was bundled over by Park Yo-han in the box under minimal pressure, the referee pointed for a penalty, and Romulo casually rolled the ball into the bottom corner for his twelfth goal of the season.  

In the second half, Busan absorbed wave after wave of Suwon attacks as they kept their third clean sheet in five matches. This exercise in defensive solidity was all the more impressive given the side were playing with one less player against the side with the league's top scorer, Chisom Egbuchunam. The Nigerian went close to scoring twice, with both shots well saved by man of the match Choi Pil-soo, who has enjoyed an excellent season since joining the club from Anyang.   



Ansan Greeners 2-0 Seoul E-Land

Ansan moved three points clear of Asan in fourth, the final playoff position, after a vital 2-0 victory over lifeless Seoul E-Land. The 2-0 scoreline flattered the away side and Ansan in reality could have scored five if they were more clinical in the final third.

After hitting the post from six yards out early in the first half, Gustavo Vintecinco made no mistake just before the stroke of half time, scoring a fantastic goal straight off the training ground. The Brazilian met an outswinging corner from the impressive Jang Hyeok-jin with a header into the top left corner, leaping like a salmon to meet the ball from 12 yards out. The Greeners doubled their lead in the 59th minute, as Lee Jun-hee - impressive throughout with his dangerous shots and passing range from an advanced midfield position - cut inside from the left flank to find Kim Dae-yeol, who headed into the top corner from 10 yards out.  



Previous Meetings

The spoils have been shared between Busan and Ansan this season, with both sides taking a win, draw and a loss from their 2019 encounters. In their most recent clash, Ansan locked up a comfortable 2-0 victory at the Wa Stadium as Gustavo Vintecinco and Jin Chang-soo scored either side of two Busan red cards, Kim Moon-hwan and Hwang Jun-ho both receiving their marching orders for two bookable offenses.

This is the 12th meeting between the two sides since Ansan's inception at the start of the 2017 season. The aforementioned victory is the Greeners only win over IPark, with Busan winning seven and the other three matches ending in draws.

 

Team News

Busan IPark
Following his red card against Suwon, central defender Alexsandar Šušnjar has been suspended for the fourth time this season. The Australian international has impressed with his aerial presence and passing ability at times, yet his poor disciplinary record has not helped a Busan side incapable of keeping a settled back four, which goes a long way to explaining how the side has managed to concede 40 goals in a title chasing campaign. This may present an opportunity for Cha Young-hwan to make his first appearance of the season, after recently returning from military service. Cha was an integral part of the 2017 IPark side that narrowly lost to Ulsan in the FA Cup Final and to Sangju on penalties in the Playoff Final. Alternatively, Busan youth academy graduate Hwang Jun-ho could make his 16th appearance of a promising debut season in professional football.

Busan will also be without top scorer Lee Jeong-hyeop, who is suspended after picking up his sixth yellow card of the season. Giant targetman Soma Novothny is an extremely able replacement as the main striker, having bagged 12 goals in a remarkable first season in Korean football. Busan will look to utilise the Hungarian's superior strength, positioning and poaching ability in the six yard box. There are no fresh injury concerns for Busan, however Novothny and talisman Romulo are just one yellow card away from a one match ban, so expect the pair to exercise caution.

Ansan Greeners
Ansan head into this match without their top scorer and most dangerous presence, Gustavo Vintecinco. The hot headed Brazilian is the only player in the league with a more appalling disciplinary record than Šušnjar, with this game marking his fifth suspension of the season. He is likely to be replaced by on-form Masatoshi Ishida as the main striker.

Lim Wan-seop otherwise has a full strength squad to choose from, with his main selection dilemna coming at full back. Lee Jun-hee may well be preferred to Kim Jin-rae, with Lee keeping a clean sheet against Seoul E-Land after Kim was dropped for a torrid defensive performance against Gwangju. If Ansan are unchanged at the back, they will start with five defenders in their starting lineup.

What to Look Out For

Busan IPark
Coach Cho Duk-jae has opted to allow his players an extended period of rest at the start of the international break, with players given almost a full week off to recuperate, in anticipation of an intensive promotion push that is likely to go through the playoffs. Some players opted to travel abroad, as Park Jong-woo visited his former teammates in the Middle East and Diego Mauricio went on vacation to Singapore, whilst Romulo had been spotted at Everland with his family and a group of other Brazilian K League superstars.

One player that has not been afforded an extended period of rest is Kim Moon-hwan, who impressed with two consecutive clean sheets for the Korea Republic National Team - a feat his club side has failed to manage all season. Kim is in serious contention to be Korea's first choice right back for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, proving his worth against a physical North Korea side after Jeonbuk RB Lee Yong was ruled out injured. Indeed, Kim was the only K League based player to play in both World Cup Qualifiers for his National Team.

For Busan, Kim is comfortably the first name on the team sheet in a back four which seems to never settle from one game to the next. He has recently been given more licence to attack down the right wing in support of Korean U23 international Lee Dong-jun - a role which he played regularly in the 2018 season. Watch out for him appearing on the edge of the 18 yard box, especially if Busan are chasing a goal in the latter stages of the game, and expect Ansan to build attacks down the right side to avoid meeting Kim down the left channel.

Busan IPark, Ansan Greeners, Kim Moon-hwan, Kim Moon Hwan

Kim Moon-hwan challenges for the ball against Ansan in April.

A big question for Busan will be how they cope without Lee Jeong-hyeop, the only striker within the squad with an ability to hold up play and involve Busan's dynamic young attackers when building attacks. As a result, Romulo will be even more relied upon to be his side's chief playmaker. With two matches and a two week break under his belt, he will be fully match fit and motivated to push this Busan side towards promotion and avoid a third successive playoff heartbreak. Ansan's best chance of stopping IPark could well be to mark Romulo out of the game, preventing the dynamic Brazilan from utilising his dazzling passing range and dictating the pace of the match, yet Ansan must also be mindful of the threat from in form Korea U23 playmaker Kim Jin-kyu. The youth academy graduate has been trusted more and more to unlock defenses from an attacking midfield position since coach Cho Duk-jae committed to a settled 4-3-3 formation.

Ansan Greeners

It is in many ways remarkable that Ansan go into their final four fixtures with an excellent chance of making the promotion playoffs. It is remarkable because of their erratic form where they have picked up just five points from their last six outings. It is remarkable because they have never really been respected as true playoff contenders throughout this season. And it is especially remarkable for how much this team has rapidly improved after two forgetful K League 2 campaigns. The club is now guaranteed their best ever finish with eighth place the lowest they can possibly fall, however with a three point advantage over a depleted Asan side for fourth and the final playoff spot, it will now be considered a failure if the team cannot claw themselves over the line to secure a post season appearance.

An enormous question mark hangs over this side's capacity to score goals without Gustavo Vintecinco, comfortably the club's top scorer on nine goals. The Brazilian made the difference in the most recent meeting between the two sides back in July, netting the Greeners' winner whilst being a constant nuisance throughout, yet is suspended this Sunday. Ansan has failed to win any of the games Vintecinco has not played in this season, with the striker particularly adept at finding space and shooting from just outside the 18 yard box, an area which Busan has been particularly weak at defending all season.

Fortunately, the recent emergence of Masatoshi Ishida will provide a solid alternative for Ansan in the final third. The Japanese import has played all across the front line this season, usually utilised as an impact substitute, however since returning from injury in August he has been increasingly played in a central forward position. All five of the former Kyoto Sanga forward's goals this season have come in his last nine appearances, and so expect the youngster to be relied upon as his side's chief attacking threat.

Ansan Greeners, Gwangju FC, Masatoshi Ishida
 Masatoshi Ishida celebrates scoring the winner against Gwangju in September.

 

Prediction

With Busan under pressure to win to keep their slim title hopes alive, I expect to see a strong attacking performance from the home side, who will go 12 games unbeaten if they avoid defeat. However, questions persist over a defence which is incapable of protecting their goalkeeper Choi Pil-soo, so this could end up being a precious point gained for the away side.

Busan IPark 2-2 Ansan Greeners



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