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Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs Jeju United

Sangju's 2-1 win against Gangwon was not enough for a top six finish.

Jeju United enter the Relegation Round three points adrift of Incheon United at the bottom of the lower half of the league, needing a miracle to stay up in the top flight next season.  In Sangju Sangmu, they face a team which lost out on the top six on the final day of the regular season, not to mention that the military side has won all four encounters between the two in 2019.  Can Jeju finally get the result they need on Saturday afternoon, or will their slide towards the drop take another hit?  KLU's Branko Belan previews the match.

Match: Sangju Sangmu vs Jeju United
Venue: Sangju Civic Stadium
Kickoff: Saturday October 19th, 2019; 18:00 KST

Last Time Out

Sangju Sangmu 2-1 Gangwon FC

Sangju Sangmu finished the regular portion of the schedule with a 2-1 win at home against Gangwon FC.  However, it turned out not to be enough, as Pohang Steelers grabbed a last second win against league leaders Ulsan Hyundai, to propel the men from the Steelyard into the top half.

The first half hour of the match didn't see much in terms of chances for either side, but Lee Kyu-sung came close for Sangju with a volleyed effort from outside the area which finished just wide of the post.  Lee Yeong-jae would put Gangwon in the lead almost immediately thereafter as he took a cutback from Shin Kwang-hoon and shot low at goal.  The ball either got a very lucky roll or took a slight deflection on the way in, although it was difficult to see on the replay.  Nonetheless, the visitors took a one goal lead to the break, but also lost Choi Chi-won to injury, who had to be carried off and was replaced by Jung Jo-gook.

The second half saw a change in fortunes for the military side as they found an equalizer on 65 minutes through second half substitute Park Yong-ji.  Sangju would leave it late to take all three points with Kim Jin-hyeok getting the winner in the fourth minute of injury time, but a late winner for the hosts in Pohang meant that the Steelers would be the ones to leapfrog into the top half at Sangmu's expense.

Highlights: here

Jeju United 1-2 Gyeongnam FC

Jeju limped to yet another defeat against Gyeongnam, the only consolation being a late goal from Nam Jun-jae to halve the deficit before the end of the match.  It was the islanders who enjoyed most of the chances in the first half, with Lee Chang-min being the first to come close, but his effort flew over the bar after 21 minutes.  Kim Dong-woo could have made it 1-0 from a corner, but his shot was right at Lee Bum-soo.  Lee Keun-ho also could have put Jeju in front, but was not clinical enough to find the back of the net.  Interestingly, although he started the match, Seo Jin-su was substituted after only 37 minutes for Elias Aguilar, a sign that the youngster is still not ready for full time minutes with the senior team.

Fortune would turn on Jeju at the beginning of the second half, as Gyeongnam would go into the lead just four minutes after the re-start as Jo Jae-cheol put them ahead, pouncing on a ball that had bounded back out of defence following a corner, firing a rocket into the top corner past Oh Seung-hoon, who was rooted to his line.  It would be two for the visitors when Woo Joo-sung doubled the advantage in the 68th minute, taking advantage of more bad defensive work from another corner, as he hit a first time shot which just managed to find its way under the body of the Jeju 'keeper, who should have likely done better.  Jeju would get the one goal back late, but it was not near enough, and now the islanders find themselves in a rut, three points off the pace and five away from safety going into the weekend.

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

It was all one-sided this season, as Sangju took all three meetings in the league as well as the Round of 16 encounter in the FA Cup which ended with one of the most prosthetic penalty shootouts in recent memory, as Sangju advanced 13-12.

The last meeting of the season finished 4-1 to Sangju, as doubles from both Kang Sang-woo and Shim Dong-woon, one in either half were more than enough to cancel out Christian Osaguona's opener in the 18th minute.  The results this season paint a much different picture in comparison with a year ago, when the sides drew all three fixtures, scoring only two goals between them.

Team News

Lee Chang-min has been one of the few bright lights for Jeju this season.

Jeju have struggled all year, and now have a mountain to climb if they want to play football in the top division again next season.  Things have been in free-fall since league play resumed following the World Cup break last season.  Had they not started as strongly as they did, sitting second in the league before the showcase in Russia, chances are they could have been playing in the second division already this season.

On paper, the islanders are an ACL quality side, but tactically, this season has been a total disaster.  If the ship is going to change course, Jeju must rely on their experienced players to get the job done.  Elias Aguilar, Nam Jun-jae, Magno, Yun Il-lok, and Kwon Soon-hyung among others must be cemented into the starting eleven for the team to have any chance of rescuing arguably the worst campaign in the club's history.  

Choi Yun-kyum's over-reliance on rotation throughout the season has done more harm than good - the time for calculations is over.

"To remain in the first league, every match is a final and must be won.  Especially, the matches against Gyeongnam and Incheon are six points we have to have," Choi said.

Nam Jun-jae picked up a yellow card against Gyeongnam, and will not be available for the match against Sangju.  Barring injuries in the meantime, Jeju should have a full squad for selection as they begin perhaps their biggest test in recent memory.

Sangju have no suspensions going into the match, and will likely go with an attacking variation as they did last time out against Gangwon where they lined up in a 4-1-3-2.  Considering they have scored eleven goals against Jeju this season, it would be difficult to see them not go all out for three points.  

Kim Jin-hyeok was named to the Best Eleven for the last round of the regular season thanks to his late winner, and should start again in defense.  Park Yong-ji did not start against Gangwon, but did come on as a substitute, and should regain his starting place in attack.


The Adversary

Despite a win on the final day of the regular season, Sangju will play in Final Round B.

Missing out on the A bracket in the Final Round comes as a bit of a double whammy for Sangju, as they were also recently knocked out of the FA Cup by Daejeon Korail in the semi-finals via a penalty shootout after the match had finished 2-2 after 120 minutes.  However, had they eventually won the competition, they would not have been able to compete in the ACL because of their current status as a military club.

The focus now is for them to finish the season on a high note, although it would be understandable for them to feel a sense of disappointment with the outcome.  After starting the season well, and even claiming top spot in the early going, they went through spells of inconsistency, a characteristic present in their final five matches of the season, as they won against Gangwon and FC Seoul, drew against Suwon Bluewings, and lost to Incheon and Jeonbuk.

Park Yong-ji is the target man Jeju must keep an eye on, as his eleven goals leads the team, and puts him among the best in the league this season, but they will also have to contend with several others.  Ryu Seung-woo, one of Jeju's own players now competing his military service with the club scored in the tie earlier in the season, and could once again be a factor on Saturday, as could be Kim Gun-hee and Song Si-woo.  Yoon Bo-sang has had an excellent season, and has played particularly well against Jeju, so he will likely be hard to beat yet again in the Sangju goal.


The desparation is palpable for the islanders at the moment.  They will most likely have to win out to have any chance of staying up, but considering their results against their opposition on Saturday, it does not look like a victory is a realistic possibility, unless Choi goes the veteran route and also includes returnees Yoon Bit-garam and Baek Dong-gyu in the starting lineup.

Sangju's counter-attack will most certainly cause Jeju problems as it has on so many occasions this season, so it is almost a guarantee that they will be able to put a few into the net, meaning that Jeju will have to come ready with their shooting boots, something which hasn't really happened all season.  All things point to a victory for Sangju; even Jeju's best effort may leave them short of the result they need.

Predicted Score: Sangju Sangmu 2-2 Jeju United

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