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Opening Weekend: Three Takeaways

The opening weekend of the new K League season saw some shocking results in both divisions as Jeju United were humbled at home by Pohang Steelers while Incheon grabbed a late winner to beat ten-man Suwon Bluewings.  Perhaps the biggest splash of the weekend came in K League 2 as Gimpo FC won on their debut, getting the better of Gwangju FC.


Jeju United Handed Heavy Defeat

After a fourth place finish from a season ago, which saw them narrowly miss out on a playoff place in the Asian Champions League and a busy off-season to bolster the club, Jeju United opened their 2022 campaign in the worst possible way, losing 3-0 against Pohang Steelers.  A 20th minute penalty from Lim Sang-hyub and a brace from second half substitute Heo Yong-joon were more than enough as the islanders will now look to regroup when they face Gangwon this coming weekend.

Things could have been much different had Choo Sang-hoon converted an early opportunity in just the second minute.  He managed to control a long ball into the box well, but he was stopped point blank by Yoon Pyung-guk.  Interestingly enough, Choi Young-jun, started in the middle of the back three in defense, owing to several injuries to defenders.  Nam Ki-il expressed his disappointment with the result, saying that there are still a lot of things the team needs to work on in the early stages of the season.  He also mentioned that newly-signed goalkeeper Kim Dong-jun sustained a hip injury, making things even more difficult for the team as the match progressed.

The normally dependable Jung Woon conceded an unnecessary penalty which gave Pohang the lead and that changed the momentum on the scoresheet, something that Jeju would not be able to recover from for the rest of the match.  The bulk of the starting eleven was the same as last season but there are indications that the new additions will need more time to gel with the rest of the squad.

Incheon Leave it Late

Stefan Mugoša celebrates his winning goal for Incheon.
When it looked as though the match would be headed for a draw between Incheon United and Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Stefan Mugoša snatched three points for the blue and black in the second minute of second half stoppage time.  Suwon played the majority of the match down to ten men after Kim Gun-hee was sent off in the thirteenth minute.

Incheon dominated the match thereafter with 72 percent of the ball but despite controlling the tempo throughout, could only muster the one goal that put them over the line at the final whistle.  Suwon could have lost by a bigger margin, but the play of Yang Hyung-mo kept them in until Mugoša's header found its way over the line with the final ticks of the clock.

The Montenegrin striker missed a considerable portion of last season and looked in excellent form, something that opposing defenders will have to keep in mind.  Incheon looked dangerous going forward and moved the ball around well.  While Suwon put up a good fight, Incheon deserved all three points, and Cho Sung-hwan will be delighted to start the new season with a win.  

Gimpo Start With a Bang

A dream start to life in K League 2 for Gimpo FC.
The biggest surprise of the weekend came in the second division where Gimpo won their first match against Gwangju FC.  Goals from Son Seok-yong and Kim Jong-seok were enough to secure three points against the Yellows, who pressured early but could not find a way through.  Gimpo started slowly but grew into the match and were justly rewarded with their first goal just after the half hour mark.

The first fifteen minutes of the second half were largely inconsequential, with Gwangju seemingly happy to keep possession but they lacked any urgency to find an equalizer.  It would cost them as Gimpo would find their second goal with twenty minutes to play.  One of the areas where Gwangju struggled last season was up front, and that was an apparent weakness in their play in the opening match once again.  The loss of Eom Won-sang to Ulsan will sting - he was one of their main creative forces last year, but he is too talented to have stayed at the club.  Lee Geon-hee got them a late consolation goal but Gimpo looked the better side and were worthy winners in their first-ever K League 2 match.

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