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Match Recap: Incheon United 0-2 Shandong Taishan, AFC Champions League

Shandong Taishan departed Incheon Football Stadium with a deserved victory in the AFC Champions League tonight. Incheon had the better of the opening half but the visiting team's bench and a fatigued home side changed the game in the final half-hour.


Overview

Incheon United 0-2 Shandong Taishan

Incheon United suffered their first defeat in the AFC Champions League, going down to Chinese Super League side Shandong Taishan at Sungui Arena. The K League team produced an electric start, going close on three occasions in the opening minutes. As the half wore on, they created several other good opportunities but failed to turn their pressure into a deserved lead.

The momentum changed immediately after the break with Shandong looking more dangerous. However, it wasn't until a double substitution in the 55th minute did the game finally swung Shandong's way. The brilliant Crysan Barcelos scored one and set up another for captain Marouane Fellaini to ensure all three points went back to China.

The teams


The lune-ups are courtesy of the official AFC X account.

Oh Ban-suk captained an Incheon United side missing the injured Harrison Delbridge at the back. Oh, Kim Yeon-soo, and Kwon Han-jin provided cover for Kim Dong-heon in goal. Further forward, manager Jo Sung-hwan selected Gerso Fernandes, Hernandes Rodrigues, Mpoku, and Stefan Mugosa as the home side sensed a great opportunity to go three from three in the group.

Shandong Taishan is managed by former Korean national team manager Choi Kang-hee. Marouane Fellaini, capped 87 times by Belgium, led out Shandong from an attacking position. The former Everton and Manchester United utility man was given the level of attention normally afforded to well-known players by the home crowd when they play in Korea. The prolific Brazilian striker Crysan Barcelos, who scored their third goal in round one, started on the bench.

First half 


Incheon United made a lightning-quick start, going close on three occasions inside the first seven minutes, with one header coming back off the crossbar. Shandong Taishan, sporting a striking all-orange kit, looked way off the pace and underprepared but crucially they didn't concede when a goal seemed inevitable.

The visitors saw their first sight at goal shortly after being forced into an early change and, as expected, captain Marouane Fellaini was the heart of the action. Moon Ji-hwan picked up a yellow card for a cynical trip as the Chinese club looked to break from a corner. From the resulting free kick, Fellaini flicked into the path of Chen Pu who dragged his shot just wide.


However, that was as much as Fellaini was able to contribute in the first half. He was expertly marked by the Incheon rearguard and spent much of the half gesticulating to the match officials.

Midway through the first half, Shandong registered their first attempt on target through Xie Wenneng. A free kick from the right was headed out to the edge of the area and Xie's powerful first-time volley was shot straight at goalkeeper Kim Dong-heon. The K League side broke instantly and a beautiful move between Hernandes, Gerso, and Stefan Mugosa almost led to the opener.

It was end-to-end stuff, and thoroughly entertaining.

Unfortunately for the home team, a heavy touch or wrong decision in the final third cost them further goal-scoring opportunities. One such break by Jung Dong-yeon, brilliantly teed up by Gerso, ended in a comfortable save for Wang Dalei. Jung was tearing down the left flank towards the edge of the box but a heavy touch narrowed the angle considerably and a good chance slipped away.

Moments later, Gerso left his man for dead on the halfway line in an incredible show of skill and deception. With the Shandong defense struggling to keep up, Gerso looked to create an opening on his left foot but this slight indecision gave the cover just about enough time to scamper back.

After three minutes of added time, Uzbek referee Riskullaev Akhrol brought an end to a lively half that, against all odds, was still scoreless.

Second half


There were no changes for either side at the break but with the momentum shifting towards the visiting side, Jo Sung-hwan made an early change, replacing the tiring Moon Ji-hwan with Kim Do-hyeok. Manager Jo confirmed in the post-match press conference that Moon's yellow card and fitness led to the change. As things would turn out, that decision (albeit the correct one) led to the visitors gaining the upper hand. 

Shandong's Korean manager Choi Kang-hee made a double substitution and immediately it had the desired effect. Brazilian striker Crysan Barcelos, boasting an impressive goalscoring record for Shandong, collected the ball on the edge of the box, cut inside onto his right foot, and curled a beautiful shot into the top left-hand corner. There was nothing Kim Dong-heon could do. A goal worthy of the occasion and, on the basis of the opening 15 minutes, was just about deserved. 

On 63 minutes, Sungui Arena got a glimpse of Fellaini's undoubted quality. In a very tight space, the Belgian chested down a cross between two Incheon defenders and took a touch but before he could put the game away, Mpoku legally barged him off the ball. It was a great tackle but again, it was the away team creating the best chances.

With 12 minutes left, Kim Dong-heon was called into action as Shandong sniffed a second. Crysan was again at the heart of the action, pinging a perfect 30-yard ball into the path of the onrushing Liu Binbin. Lui galloped towards the Incheon goal but with two men in the box, he shot straight at Kim. The save brought a huge cheer from the home crowd but, in reality, it was a glorious chance gone for the visitors.

A tired-looking Incheon side began to give up space in their own half. Last Friday, Jo Sung-hwan's team claimed a credible draw in Pohang but with the domestic season drawing to a close, their players must be feeling jaded now. Kim Do-hyeok picked up a yellow card for a foul just outside his box but the resulting free kick didn't amount to much.


Gerso, a menace in the opening half, and Mpoku, who did plenty of work at both ends of the pitch, were replaced with seven minutes to go. One last throw of the dice for the Incheon boss.

Sadly for the home team, it was Shandong who scored next. With two minutes remaining, Fellaini, who had been well marshaled by the Incheon back-line, out-muscled captain Oh Ban-suk six yards out and blasted home. It was unfortunate on Oh, who had played well to that point. Unsurprisingly, it was Crysan who won the ball down the left and his cross was finished by the Belgian.

Fellaini clearly enjoyed the moment, facing the South Stand, he hushed them twice.

Hernandes, one of Incheon's best players on the night, brought a good save from Wang in the Shandong goal when his fierce 40-yard free kick almost found the bottom left corner. Moments later, replacement Kim Dae-jung fired wide from the edge of the box. That would be Incheon's last chance, but they nearly found time for a calamitous own goal in the final seconds. 

It was a tough second half for a very good Incheon side but they are still in a good position in the groups. On to China next month!

The fans


A crowd of 7,277 was present for this Wednesday night continental clash. As you'd expect from Sungui Arena, there was plenty of noise from the home end who never stopped singing throughout. They would have been encouraged by what they saw in the first half but their team looked leggy and tired as the game went on.

As ever, the away fans in Incheon were placed in the only uncovered stand in this fantastic stadium. Thankfully for the visiting Chinese fans, the weather was outstanding for their visit. The majority wore the stand-out orange jersey, slightly reminiscent of Jeju United. They came alive in the second half as their team began to boss the game and ultimately go on and win comfortably.

Up next


Incheon is back in action this coming Saturday when they take their 5-game unbeaten run to Gwangju. The hosts have been one of the season's surprise packages, currently sitting in 3rd spot, only two points behind Pohang Steelers. Incheon has yet to win a game this year against the promoted Gwangju and they'll surely want some level of revenge for the 5-0 trouncing handed out in Jeollanam-do in March.

Shandong Taishan will welcome Incheon to their 56,000-capacity Jinan Olympics Sports Center Stadium at 18:00, local time, on Tuesday, November 7th. All to play in this group.

Attendance: 7,277

Best player: Crysan Barcelos




FNR

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