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Preview: FC Seoul vs Busan IPark

It’s crunch time in the Hana 1Q K League 1, as bottom place Busan IPark head to seventh place FC Seoul with just four points separating the sides. Caretaker boss Lee Ki-hyung takes charge of The Royals for the first time following Cho Deok-je’s resignation, while FC Seoul have Park Hyuk-soon, their second interim manager of the season, in the dugout for this pivotal clash. Can Busan IPark drag themselves out of the drop zone, or will FC Seoul take a giant leap to safety? Guest contributor Simon Farnsworth previews this tense affair.

Last Time Out

Suwon Samsung Bluewings 3-1 FC Seoul
An Adam Taggart hat-trick inspired Suwon to their first league victory over Seoul since April 2015. 

The Aussie hitman opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a sublime volley. Kim Tae-hwan had time and space on the right-wing to feed the ball to Taggart, who recovered expertly from a heavy first touch to spin and rifle a volley into the top corner. 

It was then a case of “same old, same old” for Seoul as they looked comfortable in possession but lacked any killer instinct. Han Seung-gyu missed the capital club’s best chance in the 29th minute when he headed just wide from a pinpoint Park Chu-young cross. 

Seoul were inches away from being two-nil down on the stroke of half-time as Suwon broke at pace, creating an opportunity for Han Seok-hee to cut in from the right-wing and unleash a shot that smacked against the upright. 

Seoul drew level in the 54th minute when a Han Seung-gyu free-kick caused mass panic in the Suwon box. An almighty goalmouth scramble ensued before Park Chu-young poked home for his third goal of the season to level the match. 

However, parity didn’t last long: Seoul switched off from a Suwon throw-in, allowing Han Seok-hee to whip in a dangerous cross that Taggart bundled home from close-range for his second of the Super Match. 

Taggart made sure of all three points - and completed his hat-trick -  in the 91st minute when he side-footed a first-time shot past Yang Han-been, following excellent work on the left-wing from Kim Min-woo.


Busan IPark 0-2 Gangwon

Busan IPark slipped to the bottom of the table after a 2-0 home defeat to Gangwon, a result that saw manager Cho Duk-jae call time on his reign of The Royals. 

Gangwon started the brighter but failed to really test Choi Pil-soo in the first half. Go Moo-yeol’s tame header was the best chance the visitors could muster. 

However, they soon took the lead after the break: Han Kook-young expertly created space for himself on the edge of the D before dissecting Busan’s backline with an inch-perfect through ball to Go Moo-yeol. The former Jeonbuk striker made no mistake, sliding a first time shot into the corner of the net.

Busan almost drew level in the 61st minute when Kim Jin-kyu clipped the post with a low bobbling effort from just outside the box. The sub looked razor-sharp despite making his first appearance since round 10 - where he scored against Gangwon - due to injury. 

Gangwon ensured all three points would return north in the 88th minute. Dostonbek Tursunov was outmuscled and outmanoeuvred on the right-wing by Jeong Ji-yong, who stood up an inviting cross to the on-rushing Lee Young-jae. The 26-year-old, who Paulo Bento called up to the national team on Monday, timed his run to perfection, jumping highest against a static Busan defence. Choi Pil-soo kept out the initial header, but Lee was on-hand to tap home the rebound and seal the victory. 


Previous Meetings

While the two sides are now just striving for survival, they both harboured top six ambitions when they played out a 1-1 draw in September. Busan’s Dostonbek Tursunov diverted a Park Chu-young cross into his own net to break the deadlock before debutant Kim Jung-hyun equalized for The Royals in the 85th minute with a powerful header. 

Busan have recorded just two wins against Seoul in their last ten meetings in all competitions. The Royals picked up all three points when the sides met back in round 11, thanks to two quickfire goals from Kwon Hyeok-kyu and Lee Dong-jun, and famously knocked Seoul out of the FA Cup on penalties in 2017. 

Team News

Ki Sung-yueng looks set to miss Sunday’s clash as he continues to recover from the minor muscle injury he sustained in round 21. The former KNT captain is yet to start a game for Seoul since returning to his former club. 

Seoul may also be without Kim Nam-chun. The centre back picked up an injury against Suwon and was replaced at half-time by winger Kim Jin-ya. Park Hyuk-soon, Seoul’s latest interim boss, opted to bump Osmar from centre midfield to centre back, instead of bringing young defender Cha Oh-yeon off the bench. Expect to see Osmar marshalling the back four if both Kim and Yun Young-sun fail to win their fitness battle. 

Rômulo missed Busan’s last outing, but The Royals welcomed back Lee Dong-jun and their top scorer Lee Jung-Hyub, the latter making his first start since round 18. Perhaps even more important was the return of Kim Jin-kyu, who came off the bench in the second half to make his first appearance in over two months due to injury. The revitalized midfielder could be exactly what new caretaker boss Lee Ki-hyung needs to drag his side out of the relegation zone.

The Adversary

A run of one win in 12 league games has sent Busan plummeting to the foot of the table. Lee Ki-hyung inherits a side who often look toothless going forward and leaky at the back - far from a fantastic combo when you’re in a relegation scrap. 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for The Royals: They sit just four points behind seventh-place Seoul, and safety is still in their hands. Plus, on their day, they have a talented, free-flowing midfield three, and in Lee Dong-jun, they possess one of Korea’s most sought-after young stars. Can Lee Ki-hyung get Busan back to their best, though? That’s the billion won question. 

Eulji Lewis  

What To Watch

Whose misfiring attack will splutter into life?

We have officially entered squeaky-bum territory with just four rounds remaining of the Hana 1Q K League 1. Both sides will need to show more endeavour in the final third if they hope to start pulling themselves away from the trap door. Seoul’s failure to reinforce their forward line during the transfer window has come back to bite them, while Busan sorely missed Lee Jung-hyub when he was sidelined with injury. 

Keep an eye on Seoul’s Han Seung-gyu, who - despite a lack of support - has been a creative bright-spark for the capital club. For the visitors, expect Rômulo to run the show, if he returns to the side, and Lee Dong-jun to test Seoul’s full-backs, who have been off the pace in recent weeks. 


Expect a tight, tense affair that comes with a side of drama. Recent form doesn’t point to a clash oozing with high-quality action, but the new caretaker managers may inject some much-needed attacking flair and defensive stability to both sides. 

Simon Farnsworth
Guest Contributor 

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