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Recap: Incheon United pull off greatest of great escapes

Incheon United seal K League 1 survival with a 1-0 FC Seoul in the Gyeongin Derby. An Elías Aguilar strike in the first half helped pull off the greatest of great escapes for the Blue Black who looked doomed just a couple of months ago. 

It was an emotional occasion. Tributes were paid to Kim Nam-chun who passed away on Friday 30th October. The circumstances were difficult for both teams for FC Seoul, football will have been the last thing on the players' minds.

But, for the final K League match of the year, it was Incheon United's job to make sure it wasn't their final K League 1 match for at least a year. Manager Jo Sung-hwan went with a front two of Stefan Mugoša and Elías Aguilar in a 3-5-2. Australian defensive midfielder Rashid Mahazi, meanwhile, despite goal-line heroics in the 2-1 win over Busan last week, had to make do with a place on the bench.

For FC Seoul, caretaker manager Park Hyeok-soon went with a 4-2-3-1 with Osmar recalled to the starting XI but Ki Sung-yueng's name was omitted from the match day 18. Ju Se-jong kept his place in midfield for the third match in a row, while Han Seung-gyu was named among the substitutes.

First half

The first real chance of the afternoon fell to the hosts. A well-worked short corner from the left made its way to Osmar on the penalty shot whose left-footed shot was superbly tipped over by Incheon goalkeeper Lee Tae-hui. 

From the resulting clearance Incheon broke and fashioned themselves a goal-scoring opportunity -Aguilar's short was comfortably parried away by Yang Han-bin. Left wing-back Jung Dong-yun also took it open himself to test the alertness of the FC Seoul custodian but the 29-year-old saved low down to his left.

Incheon's counterattacks were purposeful in the opening 15 minutes if not lacking in composure a tad. Seoul, meanwhile, were the opposite - a bit slower in transition but came closer to goal. Youngster Cho Young-wook's 24th minute shot flashed just wide to serve as a reminder that Seoul were looking to end the domestic season on a high.

GOAL! Elias Aguilar gives Incheon the lead on 32 minutes. The Costa Rican exchanged passes with Kim Jun-yeop and Jung Dong-yun before somehow finding the back of the net, beating Yang Han-bin at his near post from the most acute of angles. The greatest of great escapes was very much on.

It could have been two had Mugoša have put a little more power into his shot when bearing down on goal in the 37th minute. The Montenegro international picked the pocket of Seoul defender Hwang Hyun-soon before trying to slot the ball past the goalkeeper but, without making a strong enough connection, the danger was averted.

Mugoša had another half chance, this time he tried to turn and shoot 12 yards out but the 28-year-old couldn't get a shot underway and Seoul cleared their lines.

At half time the score remained at 1-0 to Incheon and, with Busan leading away to Seongnam, it would be the Magpies who were heading for K League 2.

via Fotmob


Second half

Incheon United made a change at the break, Song Si-woo, who is no stranger to a goal against FC Seoul, came on in place of Kim Jun-beom. FC Seoul waited until the 49th minute to make their first change of the afternoon: Ju Se-jong coming off with Han Seung-gyu on in his place.

The second half began at a slow pace but a chance form a set piece materialised for FC Seoul, 20 yards out with Park Chu-young and Osmar standing over the ball. Park Chu-young took, right-footed and looked to find the top corner but veteran striker's shot was just a touch too high and skimmed the roof of the net. The former Arsenal and Monaco man's contract is up at the end of the season and so could be gracing the Sangam pitch for the final time in an FC Seoul shirt.

Mugoša lively all afternoon and deserved a goal for his endeavour. Incheon's number nine picked the ball up towards the touchline and tried to send the ball across goal but with no white shirts in the box, Seoul were able to avert the danger.

Speaking of averting any potential danger, defensive midfielder Rashid Mahazi was brought on in place of Aguilar on 62 minutes, seemingly with Jo Sung-hwan looking to shut up shop. A risky move with Seoul looking to find the back of the net from distance - Yoo Jong-gyu firing over the bar but the warning signs were there.

Incheon went the other end with Song Si-woo looking to drive the ball into the corner but a well-contested battle between Song and the Yoon resulted in Seoul winning a goal kick.

Seoul, then, woke up a bit and had a spell of pressure as the game headed towards the last 15 minutes and even had a shout for a penalty. The referee wasn't interested though and Incheon lived to fight another day. Another chance came shortly after too, Park Chu-young sliding in towards the right-hand goal post.

Elsewhere, news had filtered through that Seongnam had equalised at home to Busan. This meant that Incheon simply had to hold on.

A free kick to FC Seoul on the right flank was sent in by Park Chu-young, Kim Won-sik flicked the ball towards the far post but the ball went out for a goal kick. That was Kim's last action of the afternoon as his number was held up by the fourth official, striker Yun Ju-tae on to try and grab a late equaliser for the hosts.

The tension was palpable in the stadium now. Incheon were defending for their lives, Seoul looking to salvage something from the afternoon. Oh Ban-suk sprawling on the floor helped clear another Seoul attack. Counterattack was still Incheon's method approach but composure was even more lacking than it was earlier in the match.

Yun Jun-tae's introduction added an extra dimension to FC Seoul's attack with his ability to run at defenders. In terms of the league table, the game meant very little for FC Seoul, but they were determined to get an equaliser. 

Incheon really were looking to shut up shop as Kim Dae-joong was brought on in place of striker Stefan Mugoša. Meanwhile, at Tancheon, Seongnam had scored. As things stood, Incheon were still safe but it was Busan IPark who were staring at an instant return to the second tier. It also meant that a Seoul equaliser would relegated their Gyeonggin Derby rivals.

Entering the last seven minutes and Incheon get a throw-in deep into the Seoul half but the Durumi are not disciplined enough to keep possession and make sure the ball is kept in the hosts' half. 

Another free-kick for FC Seoul, and another in a dangerous position. Incheon had defended well up until this point and with less than four minutes of normal time remaining, it was no time to switch off. Park Chu-young once sends the ball in but Kim Dae-joong heads out for a corner.

The resulting set piece is cleared and Incheon hit Seoul on the counter. It’s calmer and less frenzied now, the Durumi know they just have to hold on and not make any rash decisions. 

Chance! Kim Jun-yeop stings the gloves Yang Han-bin as Incheon seek a second goal. It’s a solid save, parried away and Seoul head up the other end before winning a free-kick. It’s taken too quickly and Incheon goalkeeper Lee Tae-hui gathers.

An audible gasp is heard when the fourth official signals that four minutes of time were to be added on. Seoul are pushing for that equaliser but, as it has been all afternoon, and since the summer in fact when Incheon began their great escape, defended valiantly. 

Incheon had not one but two chances to seal it, Song Si-woo and Ji Eon-hak trying to walk the ball in instead of pulling the trigger. Still, it remained 1-0.

Seoul then go up the other end and win yet another free kick. Park Chu-young again stood over the ball  but it's cleared momentarily. 

Towards the end things got a little bad tempered. It was an emotionally-charged match give that FC Seoul had to take to the field just 24 hours removed from the death of their teammate Kim Nam-chun. A couple of spirited tackles sparked brawls with players shouting and pushing. The result of which was Oh Ban-suk being shown a red card for Incheon. 

But that was the final action of the match. Incheon United have pulled off the greatest of great escapes. 

Full time FC Seoul 0-1 Incheon United.


FC Seoul

Substitutes: 1 Yu Sanghun, 28 Kang Sang-hee, 40 Kim Won-gyun, 25 Han Chan-hee, 66 Han Seung-gyu (49' Ju Se-jong), 36 Kwon Sung-yun (62' Jung Han-min), 19 Yun Ju-tae

Incheon United

Substitutes: 1 Jeong San, 3 Kim Chae-woon, 50 Kim Dae-joong, 5 Mahazi (62' Aguilar), 6 Lim Eun-soo, 40 Choi Beom-kyung, 19 Song Si-woo (46' Kim Jun-beom).


Referee: Kim Woo-sung
Assistants: Park Sang-jun, Kim Ji-wook
Fourth Official: Kim Yong-woo

Remembering Kim Nam-chun

K League United extends its deepest condolences to the friends, family, and teammates of Kim Nam-chun who sadly passed away on Friday 30th October 2020.

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