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Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Sangju Sangmu

Pohang Steelers vs Sangju Sangmu

Pohang Steelers will end their 2020 Hana 1Q K League 1 campaign with a matchup against Sangju Sangmu at the Steel Yard on Sunday, November 1. Can Pohang finish the season with a victory on the occasion of the 30th year of the Steel Yard anniversary or will Sangju Sangmu bid farewell to the K League 1 with a win? Pohang Steelers columnist Shibajee Das previews the encounter.

Last Time Out

Daegu FC 3-2 Pohang Steelers

Daegu started on the front foot as Cesinha opened the scoring with a calm finish in the 7th minute. Stanislav Iljutchenko teed up Aleksandar Palocevic to level things up on the half-hour mark. It was an open contest with both teams having opportunities to grab the lead in the first half.

The hosts had the lead again after some clueless defending allowed Dejan Damjanovic to apply an easy finish for the Sky Blues. Iljutchenko brought the Steelers right back into the contest scoring an equalizer following a corner kick. But just a minute later, Dejan played Cesinha through and the Brazilian scored his 18th league goal of the season to seal all three points for Daegu.

Gwangju FC 0-1 Sangju Sangmu

Sim Sang-min and Kwon Kyung-won returned to the Sangju starting lineup after being away on duty for the Korean senior national team, and it was the visitors who went closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening half an hour. Kim Bo-sub held off his marker but his shot went high and wide in the 25th minute. He then sent another powerful shot from the edge of the area high, following a corner. A few minutes later, the deadlock was broken with Park Dong-jin's diving header finding the back of the net.

In the second half, Sangju preferred to play on the break with Park close to grabbing his second after a run from his own half culminated in a shot that was deflected onto the side netting. Gwangju didn't pose any serious threat to young custodian Park Ji-min, as Sangju picked up another significant scalp in what has been a remarkable K League 1 season for the military men.      

Previous Meetings

Pohang and Sangju have faced each other on 46 occasions. The Steelers have a much superior head-to-head record, having won 30 matches and losing nine matches, while seven matches have ended in a draw. The two teams have already faced each other three times this season, with Pohang emerging victorious in each of those matches. 

The first of those clashes were played out in the K League 1 Round 6 fixture, which had taken place on June 13th, 2020. It proved to be a thrilling match in which Pohang won 4-2 away from home. Three players netted a brace, Oh Se-hun for Sangju, Stanislav Iljutchenko and Aleksandar Palosevic for Pohang.

Just over a month later, they faced again in the FA Cup Round of 16. The match was yet again played at the Sangju Civic Stadium and the result wasn't different either. Iljutchenko opened the scoring for Pohang before Jeong Jae-hee levelled for the hosts. Heo Young-joon put Sangju in front, but the lead didn't last long. Choi Young-joon brought Pohang right back in the contest, and as the game headed towards penalties, Park Byung-hyun gifted the Steelers the victory with a 119th-minute own goal.

The last time they met was just over a month ago, in the last round of the K League regular season, in a match which proved to be an absolute thriller. Aleksandar Palocevic netted a hat-trick, including a 97th-minute winner as the Steelers claimed a 4-3 win in front of their home fans.

Team News

Pohang manager Kim Gi-dong will be able to name a strong squad, without any new suspensions or injury concerns. Last time out, Song Min-kyu started on the bench. He could be the one change to the starting line-up, with Lee Seung-mo being the likely candidate to make way.

As for Sangju Sangmu, Moon Seon-min hasn't featured post-split due to an unspecified injury. Young striker Oh Se-hun could return to the team, after being on international duty for the U-23 national team. Kwon Kyung-won and Sim Sang-min returned to the starting line-up against Gwangju, after Korean senior national team duties and are expected to start again. 

What To Watch

Can Kim Gi-dong's men finish the campaign in style?

Pohang Steelers have had a wonderful K League season. They have definitely earned the tag of the 'best of the rest'. The Steelers secured a return to the AFC Champions League, and are currently sitting third in the table. They were unbeaten post-split until the narrow loss to Daegu FC last week.

Kim Gi-dong's men have mesmerized several onlookers with their flowing football this season. However, one criticism that the team faced was being unable to stand toe-to-toe against the Hyundai clubs. The Steelers answered their critics with wins over both Jeonbuk and Ulsan in recent weeks. Pohang is the highest-scoring team in the league this season with 53 goals, two ahead of bitter-rivals Ulsan. It remains to be seen now if Pohang can put last week's Daegu defeat behind them, and celebrate the 30th Steel Yard anniversary in style.

It's time for the Sangju Sangmu swansong

Sangju Sangmu has exceeded all expectations to have a memorable K League season. They are fourth in the table, ahead of their final match in the K League. The military men relocated to Sangju in 2011, and its relationship with the city will come to an end this week. The Soldiers will relocate to Gimcheon, 40 km. south of Sangju and take part in K League 2 next season. But it has been a season to remember for Kim Tae-wan's men.  

27-year-old Kang Sang-woo has been the standout performer for them this season, going out on loan to Sangju Sangmu from Pohang as he underwent his military service. He scored seven goals for Sangju and was a key part of the team before he returned back to Pohang. Ever since their return to the K League 1 four years ago, the team has always managed to relish their top-flight status. This season they went one better, as they punched above their weight picking up memorable wins along the way, most notably beating Jeonbuk at home earlier in the season. Can the soldiers bid goodbye with another win on Sunday?

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Pohang vs Sangju just doesn't fail to excite. This match is expected to be another goal-fest. Pohang's attack could be too hot to handle for Sangju and must be enough for the Steelers to claim a narrow victory to sign off the season.

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