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Recap: Busan IPark 1-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Lars Veldwijk, Jeonbuk Motors
Defending K League 1 Champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors overcame a major scare on Saturday, as they were pushed all the way against unfancied promoted side Busan IPark. Todd Wilde recaps the game, and analyses what went right and what went wrong for the two sides. 

What Happened?

Busan IPark's first home game in Korea's top flight for four and a half years ended in abject disappointment as Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors salvaged all three points through Lars Veldwijk's last gasp winner. It was a thoroughly unconvincing performance from the defending champions, who struggled to cope with Busan's attacking intensity throughout the second half, but the Jeolla-bukdo outfit dug deep to remain one of only two sides to maintain a 100% start to the season.

Jeonbuk had started the game well and took the lead through the first real chance of the match. Son Jun-ho racked up his second assist in as many games with an accurate and powerful free kick from the left flank, which fell perfectly for former Augsburg centre back Hong Jeong-ho, expertly guiding his header into the bottom right corner from ten yards out.

Jeonbuk Motors
Jeonbuk celebrate their early first half goal

Jeonbuk remained in control for the majority in the first half, hoarding possession but failing to create many clear cut chances, as Kim Bo-kyung and Kunimoto both shot wildly from promising positions. The Greens best chance to double their lead came through Kim Jin-su's speculative low drive from thirty yards, well saved by Choi Pil-soo but only as far Jeonbuk's youngster Cho Kyu-sung, who did well to control the ball but had his shot deflected onto the post by IPark debutant Kim Dong-woo. 

The half time introduction of IPark's talisman Romulo transformed the home side, as they began to show signs of what made Busan an attacking powerhouse in the second tier last season. On the hour mark, Kim Jin-su brought down lightning quick winger Lee Dong-jun on the edge of the box, as the young starlet's quick feet were too fast for the international first choice left back - not for the first time in the game. Romulo coolly stepped up to the spot to tie the match.

Romulo celebrates his equaliser from the penalty spot

After this point Busan looked the most likely team to win the game, often utilising the positional strength of Gustavo Vintecinco as a target man to bring Korean U23 pair Lee Dong-jun and Kim Jin-kyu into attacks. Busan's best chance came through this route, as Vintecinco's knock on to Kim was poorly dealt with by Choi Bo-kyung. Lee Dong-jun's quick thinking put Lee Byong-oh one-on-one with the keeper, but the winger volleyed wide from ten yards with the goal gaping, unmarked.
Other chances came through Lee Dong-jun and Kim Jin-kyu who both went close from range, as Jeonbuk pushed for a winner of their own at the other end. The impressive Han Kyo-won shot just wide before substitute Lars Veldwijk crafted three good chances in the closing stages. After shooting wide from fifteen yards, then forcing Choi Pil-soo into a good save from a deflected cross, the Bafana Bafana hitman used his strength to hold off Yun Suk-young whilst contesting a floated cross, deftly taking a touch with his left knee before striking low and hard with his right foot to give his side all three points from an improbably acute angle.

Match Highlights:

What Went Well?

Despite the result, Royals coach Cho Duk-jae will have been delighted to have seen a much improved performance by his side, defeated but not outclassed by the defending champions. Lee Gyu-seong had a brilliant game as the pivot at the base of a midfield three, excellent at breaking up Jeonbuk's passing capabilities in central positions whilst capable of driving at the opposition when in possession. Kim Jin-kyu showed why he is likely to be an integral part of the Korean team at the Tokyo Olympics, as he made valuable contributions in Busan's build up play, finding space to progress attacks around the 18 yard box.

Kim Jin-kyu, Busan IPark
Kim Jin-kyu had a strong second half performance against Jeonbuk

Despite conceding twice, at the other end Busan looked much more assured at the back than against Pohang, for the large part preventing their more illustrious opponents from creating chances within Busan's penalty area. Kim Dong-woo had an impressive debut at centre back alongside Kang Min-soo, and the two will likely be given a chance to form a partnership. They were ably assisted by Kim Moon-hwan, who looks every inch the number one right back in Korea right now, outclassing Kim Jin-su in a battle for supremecy whilst outshining Lee Yong, his opposite number and main competition for the Taeguk Warriors right back position.

Bafana Bafana striker Lars Veljwijk was sensational after coming on for Jeonbuk, offering a mobile yet physically dominating outlet in the box that was difficult for Busan's backline to mark. Though his strength and close ball control as a 196cm target man were showcased in the game winning goal and much of his build up play, there were promising signs that the former Nottingham Forest and Sparta Rotterdam striker will be able to adapt to the speed of the K League, as he showed excellent spatial awareness in the channels when Jeonbuk broke on the counter attack. Note his positioning and pace when Jeonbuk broke in the first minute of stoppage time, as his deflected cross was well saved by Choi Pil-soo.

What Didn't Go Well?

Despite improving from their troubling performance against Pohang, Busan still look vulnerable in the air - both goals on Saturday came from crosses, with Jeonbuk correctly identifying mismatches between strong headers of the ball and players who are naturally awkward in the air for both goals (Hong Jeong-ho was marked by inexperienced youngster Kwon Hyeok-kyu, whilst Veldrijk was able to slip past left back Yun Suk-young). Busan need to continue to work on defending set plays and crosses, ensuring that appropriate players can be assigned to attacking threats in defensive situations.

Kim Jin-su was poor at left back for Jeonbuk, as questions persist over his long-term form. Busan looked to target the Korean international throughout the second half, particularly utilising the guile of Lee Dong-jun, who made the full back look silly with a silky first touch and rapid acceleration down the flank, culminating in a penalty shout. Fellow youngster Kim Jin-kyu also had success attacking the far right corner of the pitch, whilst Kim Moon-hwan easily snuffed out any attacking threat Kim Jin-su might have had.

Lee Dong-jun, Kim Jin-su, Busan IPark
Lee Dong-jun is tripped by Kim Jin-su to win his side a penalty

Some of Jeonbuk's star names had a poor game, as Kim Bo-kyung and Takahiro Kunimoto struggled to make an impact on the pitch. The two winter signings are arguably not being played in their best positions, with Kunimoto reduced to making individual runs from a central position, whilst Kim was unable to get the better of Yun Suk-young in an unfamiliar role on the right wing. Coach Jose Morais could opt to swap the position of the two players, given the success Kim had at Ulsan in a central role last season, whilst Kunimoto often played on the wing for Gyeongnam in 2018.

What Do They Need To Do Now?

Busan must improve as an attacking force on the left wing to help take the pressure off Lee Dong-jun on the opposite flank. Lee Byong-oh, much maligned by some Suwon FC supporters for his ineffectiveness in 2019, has bedded in well with decent movement and build up play yet has disappointed fans with a poor end product and questionable decision making.

Lee needs to prove he is an upgrade on Kwon Jong-hyun and former club captain Han Ji-ho, both deemed insuffiently talented to start at this level by coach Cho Duk-jae. Lee fluffed two significant chances that Busan will need to put away if they are to compete with the very best in the country, once when he broke free of the defensive line but miscontrolled the ball with just the keeper to beat in the 33rd minute, and most critically his awful miss with the goal gaping in the 70th minute.

With new signing Jonaton Reis struggling to settle at the south coast side, a potential solution for Cho Duk-jae would be to move Kim Jin-kyu to the wing, a position where he excelled in 2018, finding the net nine times. This would free up space in a well-stocked central midfield for playmaker Romulo or veteran enforcer Park Jong-woo to start, whilst allowing Kwon Hyeok-kyu to start at the tip of a three man midfield, satisfying the league's requirement to start a player under the age of 22.

Jeonbuk must tighten up defensively, and were sluggish defending both flanks even with significant numbers behind the ball. Jeonbuk face Gangwon and Pohang in their next two matches, two counter-attacking sides that have been particularly successful focusing their attacks with width and rapid pace. If they cannot get an early goal, Jeonbuk will be vulnerable to a sucker punch defensively, and should be mindful of this possibility when preparing for the opposition.

Who's Up Next?

Busan's start to the season gets no easier - they travel to face an Ulsan Hyundai side with a 100% record, a 7pm kickoff (KET) on Saturday 23rd May (11am UK, 6am ET). Jeonbuk host a Daegu side yet to record a win, on Sunday 24th May at 4:30pm KET (8:30am UK, 12:30am PT).

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