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What can we expect from FC Seoul between now and season-end?

FC Seoul made it two wins from two in Final B on Sunday with a 4-3 victory away to Suwon FC. Seoul were made to work for their three points but it looks as though that's exactly what Kim Jin-kyu's team will keep doing this season - work.
In the post-match press conference following FC Seoul's 4-3 away win over Suwon FC, caretaker manager Kim Jin-kyu was asked about his team's motivation between now and the end of the season. He said that payday is on the 25th of the month, that's enough motivation. Meaning that, as professional footballers, his players have a job to do to perform as best as they can for the fans.

Well, the strong away following at Castle Park will have left feeling as though they got their money's worth. Seoul scored four in the second half right in front of the travelling support and kept going despite setbacks to earn their second win in Final B.

Suwon took the lead in the first half through Ricardo Lopes but Ki Sung-yueng levelled in bizarre fashion 11 minutes into the second half with his arrow-like pass from the halfway line missing everyone and going straight in. Seoul then turned the game on its head on the hour mark through more Willyan magic who left four players for dead before tucking the ball away.

Lee Seung-woo's close-range effort restored parity on 67 minutes but not for long as Bjørn Johnsen swept up Seoul's third 16 minutes from time before the pendulum swung again with Lopes converting a very late penalty in the 92nd minute. But Seoul found another goal just a minute later, this time through Kim Gyeong-min for his second of the season, and second against Suwon FC. 

What can we expect from FC Seoul between now and season-end?

If the last two performances and results are anything to go by – the 2-1 win over Gangwon FC in Round 34 and the 3-2 win over Suwon FC in Round 35 – then fans can expect a determination to grind results out and end the season as positively as possible.

Caretaker gaffer Kim Jin-kyu FC Seoul set up in a 4-3-3 with Willyan, Kim Sin-jin, and Na Sang-ho up top. Stanislav Iljutcenko remained sidelined with an injury that “isn’t serious” and one that should only keep him out for “a couple of weeks” more, he told me outside the ground. The powerful striker had travelled to Suwon to watch his teammates and was signing autographs and taking pictures outside the away just before kick-off.

Han Seung-gyu and Lee Si-young kept their places in midfield and at left back respectively. Aleksandar Paločević was in the number 10 role at the, anchored by Ki Sung-yueng who scored his first goal of the season here only a couple of weeks ago pre-split.

The hosts broke the deadlock on 30 minutes through Ricardo Lopes. Seoul failed to clear their lines which allowed Suwon to put together some neat passes, resulting in Lopes being played in six yards out. The former Jeonbuk man doesn’t miss from there. 

Sat directly in front of K League United in the media area were FC Seoul’s data analysts, furiously rewinding clips placing markers on areas of the pitch that led to their employers conceding the game’s opening goal. Suwon had woken up at this point and were trying to hit Seoul on the counter with Lopes and Lee Gwang-hyeok. 


Suwon led at the break but Seoul levelled early enough into the second half through Ki Sung-yueng but did so in bizarre circumstances. Whether the 33-year-old was inspired by Harry Kane's halfway line goal for Bayern Munich the night before, or whether he was trying to pick out Na Sang-ho with one of this trademark taekbae (special delivery) passes is something only Ki will know but somehow he had scored from his own half.

Ki told me at the start of the season that he wanted to score more goals and get more assists this season. He wants to be “greedier,” he said. He only has two goals this season and both came away to Suwon FC, and in fortuitous circumstances. His first took a huge deflection to wrongfoot the ‘keeper, his second came accidentally.

Neither Na nor the defender got a touch and Noh Dong-geon was caught flat-footed and was helpless in stopping the ball from going in. Seoul’s second goal came just a couple of minutes later with Willyan dancing his way through the box and firing in from close range. How often has Willyan been that source of inspiration this season for Seoul, someone willing to break the mold and go off script? 

Lee Seung-woo equalised though to remind Seoul that Suwon weren’t going to give up without a fight. Why Suwon’s top scorer didn’t start the game is another matter entirely, but his impact off the bench was almost instant. 

It was an entertaining second half. Seoul looked good in that 10-minute or so spell when they scored two but the Lee Seung-woo equaliser dampened the tempo a bit. This brought a tactical change or two from caretaker manager Kim Jin-kyu who took off Aleksandar Paločević with Bjørn Johnsen coming on and Hwang Hyun-soo on for Han Seung-gyu. Osmar moved into midfield with Hwang slotting in at centre back and Johnsen up top in a two with Kim Sin-jin.

The changes paid dividends too as Johnsen put Seoul back in front from close range, on hand to sweep home the rebound after Kim Sin-jin’s initial shot had hit the crossbar and bounced out favourably.
If Kim Jin-kyu is interested in taking the job permanently next year, he can point to in-game tweaks like this to show the higher-ups of his tactical nous. 

Just when you thought the game was done, Suwon were then awarded a penalty. Lopes duly converted in the 92nd minute with what most thought was the last action of the game. But another masterstroke substitution from Kim Jin-kyu led to Seoul finding the winner. Kim Gyeong-min, who like Ki had only scored against Suwon this season, was on hand to poke home from point-blank range almost straight after the game restarted. It was Bjørn Johnsen's header that played Kim in, again highlighting the towering centre forward's impact off the bench and his strong points.

The game seemed to sum up what was good and bad about both teams - or what's not gone for them this season. Seoul had to score four away from home to win the game, Suwon will feel like scoring three at home should be enough to win. Incredibly, there have been 21 goals scored in this fixture this season, helped by the 7-2 Seoul win in the summer. Seoul have plenty of firepower, even without Iljutecnko, and so will continue to entertain between now and the end of the season.

Other positives

Besides the three points, there were plenty of other positives. Bjørn Johnsen getting off the mark despite not being 100% fit will give the big Norwegian confidence to take into the final three games; Ki scoring and Seoul winning might just help him put off any potential retirement plans, and a six-point lead over Daejeon means Seoul are close to sealing top spot in Final B. It's not exactly something you'd list under honours on the club's Wikipedia page but having been annoyed to have dropped into Final B, they might as well show the rest of the teams in there that they belong higher up the table.

The game was also the nearest they had to the anniversary of Kim Nam-chun's untimely death in 2020. Kim was found dead in the parking garage of an apartment building on October 30th that year. Seoul were forced to play the very next day, losing 1-0 at home to Incheon. They lost on the second anniversary of his death one year later, also to Incheon, and last year they lost 3-1 in the second leg of the FA Cup Final. Fittingly, this year they won and scored four, the number Kim wore in his last seasons with FC Seoul.

Up next for FC Seoul is Jeju United away in Round 36 before the Super Match at home followed by a third trip to Daejeon this season on the final day.

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