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FA Cup Preview: Sangju Sangmu Vs. Pohang Steelers

Korean FA Cup Preview: Sangju Sangmu Vs. Pohang Steelers

It will be K League 1’s third-placed team taking on fourth when Sangju Sangmu will play hosts to Pohang Steelers in the Round of 16 of the KEB Hana Bank FA Cup on Wednesday, July 15. With both teams having dropped points at the weekend, who will bounce back with a victory at the Sangju Civic Stadium? Pohang Steelers columnist Shibajee Das previews the match.

Last Time Out

Incheon United 1-1 Sangju Sangmu

With five consecutive victories in all competitions, Sangju Sangmu was in a buoyant mood ahead of a trip to the basement club Incheon United. Kim Tae-Wan’s well-oiled unit have been the surprise performers this season and was looking to claim a seventh league win of the season. They were coming into this match after a stunning victory over defending champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

The Firebirds opted for a 4-1-4-1 shape against Incheon. A sluggish first half saw very little goalmouth action, with the only notable effort coming on the stroke of half time from Kim Bo-seob. However, his low shot was easily dealt with by Incheon goalkeeper Jung San. Both sides went in level on the break, after a forgettable 45 minutes.

Lacking any intensity, Sangju decided to replace Park Se-jin with Moon Seon-min at the start of the second half. A horrible mistake from Jung San allowed Sangju to open the scoring. The 31-year-old custodian attempted to come and claim a corner, but Oh Se-hun lost his marker and headed home at the near post to give his side the lead in the 48th minute. Shortly afterwards, Lee Je-ho was sent off for Incheon. Things went from bad to worse for the hosts, when Song Si-woo received his marching orders for stamping on the heel of Sangju right back Bae Jae-woo. Incheon was now reduced to nine men but Sangju failed to make use of the numerical advantage and double their lead. The visitors thought that they had another three points in the bag, with the black-and-blues unable to provide any attacking threat.

And then the unthinkable happened in the 93rd minute, Kim Do-hyuk played a hopeful cross into the six-yard area and Ji Eon-hak slotted the ball through the legs of the goalkeeper into the back of the net, to start wild celebrations in the Incheon camp. It was the most unlikely point gained for Incheon, having played almost 30 minutes with nine men. As for Sangju, it will be a bitter pill to swallow having had the upper hand and two men advantage for the majority of the second half.

Pohang Steelers 1-1 Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Pohang was coming into this match on the back of four wins in all competitions, but more importantly, having kept clean sheets in each of those victories. Not surprisingly, Kim Gi-dong opted for an unchanged starting lineup after a thumping win over Seongnam FC in their previous encounter.
The Bluewings broke the deadlock in the 38th minute, after an error from the most reliable person on the pitch. Kang Hyun-moo finally conceded after a calamitous piece of goalkeeping. Kim Min-woo headed towards Kang, who should have easily claimed the ball, instead, the goalkeeper was caught in two minds about whether to catch the ball or kick out, and Adam Taggart had the simplest of tap-ins. It was the Australian striker’s third goal in two matches.

The Steelers started the second half brightly. Some individual magic from Manuel Palacios enabled the Colombian winger to get away from a couple of defenders and cross the ball into the back post, where Song Min-kyu towered above his marker to head home on the hour mark. Suwon seemed to have won the match after another goalkeeping hash, but the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) intervened to cancel the goal due to offside. Both teams ultimately had to settle for a draw, which lifted the Steelers up to fourth and the Bluewings up to eighth in the standings.

Previous Meetings

Sangju and Pohang have faced each other 44 times in total, with Pohang having the upper hand, winning 28 matches and losing nine, whereas seven matches have finished in a draw.
The corresponding fixture in the league this season was a high-scoring affair. Two goals each from Stanislav Iljutchenko and Aleksandar Palosevic, had powered Pohang to a 4-2 victory. However, Palosevic, who had played a crucial role in that match, continues to be on the sidelines.

Team News

After a frustrating outing last time out for the hosts, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see mercurial winger Moon Seon-min coming into the starting lineup. Manager Kim Tae-wan could also look to Moon Chang-jin to freshen up the midfield, and could also drop striker An Tae-hyun to the bench, after a below-par display in their previous outing for the Sangju striker.

Kim Gi-dong would be disappointed to see his team’s winning run coming to a halt, however, his forwards continue to deliver the goods in every match. New signing Nam Joon-jae could finally make his first start, after having come off the bench in each of the last two league matches. Lee Seung-mo could also make the starting lineup if the manager decides to rest one of his key players, with a trip to Seoul coming up in just a couple of days.

The Adversary

Sangju Sangmu has had a great season so far. The military club started the 2020 season, already knowing they would be relegated to K League 2. The club had decided to move out of Sangju to a new location for the next season.

With 21 points from 11 matches, the Firebirds sit third in the table, just five points off leaders Ulsan Hyundai. They could better their seventh-place finish from last season, and bid adieu to the city of Sangju on a memorable note.

In this season’s FA Cup, they got the better of fourth-tier outfit Ulsan Citizen in the third round but will be up against a much sterner test against the Steelers, who are just a point below Sangju in the league standings.

What to Watch

Can Pohang balance their FA Cup and K League 1 commitments?

Kim Gi-dong has a unique kind of headache. Though it’s still pretty much the earlier stages of the FA Cup, the manager would be a little worried over his approach to this match. With the Steelers having more than a decent league season, sitting fourth in the table, Kim would certainly be thinking about his team’s priorities.

The aim of the club is certainly to get back amongst the continent’s elite, but choosing whether to continue their cup run or prioritise the league is a tough call to take. With just a two-day gap and a trip to Seoul on the horizon, Kim could look to rotate his squad as much as possible. But keeping pace with the table-toppers along with continuing the cup run, wouldn’t be an easy task at all.


With both teams having won six league matches each, it is all set to be a very close contest between two teams who have displayed good defensive solidity this season. It could go either way but Steelers’ foreign contingent could make the difference, and carry them onto the quarter-finals.

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