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Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Gangwon FC

Pohang Steelers return to action in the K League on Saturday, when they host third-placed Gangwon FC at the Steel Yard. Can they get back to winning ways? Nived Zenith previews the clash.

Last Time Out

Pohang Steelers 1-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

The Steelers came into the clash against defending champions Jeonbuk Hyundai, following an impressive high-scoring 4-2 win away from home to Sangju Sangmu. Kim Gi-dong made just a solitary change in the starting eleven, where Choi Young-jun was replaced by Lee Seung-mo in midfield.

However, it was the visitors that produced the first efforts on goal, within the opening exchanges of the game. Both Kim Bo-kyung and Lars Veldwijk produced attempts, albeit failing to work Kang Hyeon-mu in goal for Pohang.

Cho Kyu-sung hit the crossbar with a header for Jeonbuk, and Veldwijk wasted another opportunity after the ball fell kindly for him in front of goal. 

Jeonbuk were made to rue their missed chances in the 41st minute, when Aleksandar Palocevic’s cross was headed into the far corner by Lee Seung-mo to give the Steelers a lead at the interval.

Eventually, Jeonbuk made one of their chances count, as Han Kyo-won tapped home the equaliser from a set-piece. Pohang’s top-scorer Stanislav Iljutcenko threatened the Jeonbuk goal with an effort in the 70th minute, but Song Bum-keun was alerted to the danger and thwarted the attempt.

Kim Min-hyeok netted the decisive goal in stoppage time to secure maximum points for Jeonbuk, following a well worked out corner routine.

Gangwon FC 0-3 Ulsan Hyundai

The Bears lined up in a 4-2-4 formation against title-aspirants Ulsan Hyundai at Gangneung during their midweek clash in the K League. As expected, the Horangi dominated proceedings from the beginning and took the lead, albeit for a moment, in the 17th minute through Jung Hoon-sung, whose shot hit Junior Negrao in an offside position before creeping inside the goal.

Despite the early nerves, Gangwon settled in well and fought valiantly throughout the game. Cho Ji-hun forced an excellent save from Jo Hyeon-woo in the 25th minute and both sides went into the half-time interval at 0-0.

Cho threatened again from a free-kick shortly after the break, but Jo was again equal to the task and pushed his attempt away for a corner. By the hour mark, Cho had attempted his third shot from distance, which was well caught by Jo.

It was all Gangwon until the 72nd minute, when an excellent pass from Lee Dong-gyeong opened up their defence for Kim In-sung to latch on and put in a cross towards Yoon Bit-garam, who finished with ease. 

The Horangi built on their opening goal and eventually made it 3-0 by the end of the night, courtesy of goals from Junior and summer recruit Bjorn Maars Johnsen.

Previous Meetings

The last three meetings between the sides have produced 16 goals, with Gangwon coming out on top twice and the latest encounter being a 2-2 draw at the Steelyard. 

While recent history tips the scale in favour of the Bears, Pohang have enjoyed considerable success over the years. The Steelers have won nine games out of the overall 20 league meetings between the sides, losing out just twice at home during that time. Gangwon have enjoyed only five wins against Pohang in the past. The sides have shared the points on six separate occasions in the K League.

Team News

Kim Gi-dong’s Pohang suffered a few casualties during their last-minute defeat to Jeonbuk during midweek. Aleksandar Palocevic was forced off due to an injury, while it seemed like Lee Seung-mo also suffered a shoulder problem. As things stand, Pohang could be in a bit of a race against time to name both these players in the playing eleven against Gangwon on Saturday. However, they are expected to name both Brandon O’Neill and Stanislav Iljutcenko in the side. Manuel Palacios has also been linked with a loan move away from the club in the last few days, amidst interest from Busan IPark. It remains to be seen whether he starts against Gangwon this weekend.

Kim Byung-soo is also expected to make a few tweaks to the lineup on Saturday, following the draining effort against Ulsan during midweek. Gangwon are expected to retain their core group of players though, as they aim to get back to winning ways.

The Adversary

Byung-soo ball has been the talk of the town for quite a while now. Despite the 3-0 defeat against Ulsan, Gangwon would not be overly dissatisfied with their performance. Perhaps, the scoreline does not give a clear picture of the game that played out in their own backyard against the Horangi.

There were certainly signs of promise for the Bears during their defeat, and although they eventually ended up conceding three goals, the team are expected to shake it off and be ready for the game on Saturday. Gangwon are still third in the league table after seven games and another win could open up a four-point lead and some much-needed breathing space over Sangju Sangmu and Pohang behind them.

Who To Watch

Stanislav Iljutcenko

The marksman has netted five goals so far this season and is only behind Junior Negrao in the race for the golden boot in the K League. Iljutcenko’s brace in the win over Sangju Sagmu was impressive and with Aleksandar Palocevic potentially out of the game on Saturday, the Steelers will be hoping their striker can deliver the goods yet again. When he is playing at his best, he’s a threat to any defence. With the right amount of support, Iljutcenko may well surpass his tally of nine goals last season. The striker also netted the goal that started the comeback for Pohang during their 2-2 draw with Gangwon at the Steelyard last season.

Cho Ji-hun

The midfielder was only making his second appearance of the season against Ulsan during midweek, but certainly shone in the two-man midfield deployed by Kim Byung-soo. Cho Ji-hun pushed forward with his composed dribbling and produced three good attempts on goal to keep the pressure on the visitors for prolonged periods. Cho was an assertive figure in midfield and although he could not help his team avoid defeat in midweek, he could well play an influential role for Gangwon in the weeks to come.

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The fixture has produced plenty of goals in the past and both teams have already proven they can produce exciting football. Whoever does it more clinically would come out on top, and Gangwon might just have enough in them to maintain their glorious record against the Steelers in recent times.

Pohang Steelers 1-2 Gangwon FC

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