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Preview: Pohang Steelers Vs. Suwon Samsung Bluewings

K League 1 Preview: Pohang Steelers Vs/ Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Two K League 1 clubs who are poles apart when it comes to recent form will lock horns against each other when Pohang Steelers welcome Suwon Samsung Bluewings to the Pohang Steel Yard on Saturday, July 11. Will Pohang carry on their superb run of form against the disjointed Suwon Bluewings? Pohang Steelers columnist Shibajee Das previews the match.



Last Time Out

Seongnam FC 0-4 Pohang Steelers

The Magpies hosted Pohang at the Tancheon Sports Complex, hoping to make home advantage count and claim a surprise victory. However, Seongnam’s 3-4-3 formation wasn’t able to cope with Pohang’s usual 4-2-3-1 setup. Song Min-kyu, who has been one of the standout performers in the league this season, delivered yet another master class performance. The 20-year-old opened the scoring with a rasping drive from outside the box in the 23rd minute. Shortly afterwards, Seongnam did have the ball in the back of the net, only for the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to intervene and chalk off the goal due to a handball. Seongnam put relentless pressure on the Pohang defence but was unable to find that elusive equaliser. Just before the interval, their hopes were dealt a hammer blow when a brilliant interplay between Song and Stanislav Iljutchenko, unlocked the hosts’ defence and the Russian striker slotted the ball into an unguarded net.

The second half started off just like the way the first half had ended. Song yet again displayed his clinical finishing in front of the goal, when his low shot increased the visitors’ advantage in the 50th minute. The match was now over as a contest, and Brandon O’Neill was given a breather when he was taken off in the 56th minute. However, Pohang didn’t show any signs of slowing off and Manuel Palacios added the fourth after a brilliant attacking move, in the 67th minute. The Steelers eased off after that and invited pressure with the Magpies hitting the crossbar twice in the closing stages. New signing Nam Joon-jae came off the bench late on to make his debut, as the Steelers ultimately secured a comfortable victory on the road.



Suwon Samsung Bluewings 3-3 FC Seoul

Suwon took on their biggest rivals in the first Super Match of the 2020 K League season. Both teams were in desperate need of a win, to have a turnaround in their fortunes. Lee Lim-saeng and Choi Yong-soo were looking to cancel each other out with identical 3-5-2 setups.

Adam Taggart opened the scoring for Suwon from the penalty spot in the 12th minute, after VAR had spotted an infringement in the area. Park Chu-young drew Seoul level in the 28th minute with a poacher’s finish. Taggart was at the right place to score his second of the night in the 42nd minute of the match. Kim Kun-hee somehow managed to find the back off the net in a crowded box in first-half stoppage time to give Suwon a two-goal lead at the break.

Taggart failed to capitalize on a long ball from Doneil Henry before Cho Young-wook brought Seoul right back in the contest with a brilliant top left corner finish in the 57th minute. Four minutes later, the comeback was complete after a free-kick was deflected onto the path of Ko Kwang-min, and the 31-year-old midfielder made no mistake. The Bluewings were closest to grabbing all three points when they struck the base of the post in the 74th minute through Kim Kun-hee, and Ko Seung-beom’s deflected shot skimmed the top of the crossbar in stoppage time. However, the visitors almost grabbed a dramatic winner with the last kick of the match, when Han Seung-gyu’s shot was deflected onto the post by Suwon custodian No Dong-geon.



Previous Meetings

Pohang and Suwon have faced each other 80 times in total, with Pohang just edging the head-to-head record winning 29 matches and losing 27, whereas 24 matches have ended in a stalemate.

However, the last six matches have seen three wins apiece for either team. The last encounter between the teams took place on 4th August 2019 with Pohang running out 2-0 winners at Big Bird. Lee Soo-bin and Wanderson were the goal scorers on that occasion, with both the players not in the books of Steelers this season.

Team News

Kim Gi-dong seems to have finally found the winning formula, with Pohang in magnificent form in the last couple of matches. Brandon O’Neill will be fresh and raring to go, having played less than an hour against Seongnam in the previous match. The only possible change could be Shim Dong-woon making way for Nam Joon-jae if the manager would like to check out on his new import from the outset of the match.

As for the opposing man in the dugout, Lee Lim-saeng, there is plenty of concern. Australian midfielder Terry Antonis is expected to return to the starting lineup, as the Bluewings need to desperately shore up the centre of the park. It feels like Suwon are already starting to feel the absence of Hong Chul, who departed for Ulsan Hyundai, earlier this month. It is high time for Doneil Henry and Min Sang-gi to step up and provide solidity to the backline, which will be crucial to contain Pohang in their own backyard.

The Adversary

Suwon Samsung Bluewings have had a wretched season so far, with nothing having gone the way of Lee Lim-saeng. The Bluewings have picked up just two wins all season, sitting 10th in the league table, with 9 points from 10 matches.

One sign of encouragement would be the return to goalscoring form for talismanic striker Adam Taggart, who had netted a brace in their previous outing. However, the Australian has been a shadow of his usual self. Last season’s K League 1 top scorer has struggled to find the back of the net, having managed just three goals this term. The lacklustre performances of Taggart sum up Bluewings’ season in a nutshell.

Almost halfway through the league campaign, the Bluewings could already be setting their eyes on defending the FA Cup as it realistically remains their only possibility of winning any silverware this season.

What to Watch

Will Pohang keep yet another clean sheet?

The credit for Pohang’s recent run of form, not only goes to their sharpshooters but also their solid defence. Their last line of defence, Kang Hyun-moo, has been an unsung hero for the Steelers. The 25-year-old shot-stopper has produced important saves in crucial junctures of matches.
The Steelers have kept clean sheets in all of their last four matches in all competitions. It will be interesting to witness if the Bluewings can finally breach Kim Gi-dong’s disciplined boys.

Prediction

This could be a tight contest if the Bluewings can see out the first half without conceding. But given the Steelers’ steely backline coupled with Song Min-kyu and Stanislav Iljutchenko’s taste for goals, Pohang should see off Suwon and pick up another win to keep up the pace with the table toppers.

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