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Match recap: Incheon United 2-1 Yokohama F. Marinos, AFC Champions League

A youthful and injured-ravaged Incheon United recorded a famous victory over Japanese side Yokohama F. Marinos in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday night. The win gave Incheon a group-stage double over Yokohama and puts them in a great position to qualify for the knock-out rounds.



Incheon United 2-1 Yokohama F. Marinos

Goals in each half from Hong Si-hoo and Hernandes Rodrigues handed Incheon United a vital three points in the AFC Champions League at Sungui Arena. Incheon rode their luck at times, but this was a mightily impressive result and performance from Cho Sung-hwan's side, especially considering the mounting injury list.

Hong broke the deadlock within 12 minutes after good build-up play from Kim Bo-sub. Kim then had a hand in Incheon's second, crossing for the replacement Hernandes to make it two. Yokohama grabbed a consolation goal eight minutes from time, and will probably feel aggrieved not to come away with at least a point. However, for Incheon, that's a group double over Yokohama and gives them a huge chance of progressing to the next round.

The teams

Manager Cho Sung-hwan named 10 of the team which started against Ulsan Hyundai at the weekend. The only change came at the back where Kim Dong-min returned in place of Kwon Han-jin. The physical toll of a very long (but ultimately fascinating) season for Incheon United was evident in their team selection for this vital clash. Of Incheon's foreign contingent, Gerso Fernandes, Stefan Mugosa, Harrison Delbridge, and Mpoku were all absent. 

Hernandes Rodrigues, linked with a move away, started on the bench. Lee Myung-joo, Moon Si-hwan, and Shin Jin-ho were also out injured. Fortunately, they were able to call upon the services of goalkeeper Kim Dong-heon before he departs for K League 2 champions Gimcheon Sangmu FC. Manager Cho confirmed in the post-match press conference that Kim will delay his entry and join the team in the Philippines next month.

Yokohama are managed by former Australian international Kevin Muscat and captained by club hero Takuya Kida. K League fans might remember the name Anderson Lopes from his time at FC Seoul in 2018. Lopes, wearing the number 11, started this game on the bench. There he was joined by the 54-times capped Korean midfielder Nam Tae-hee. 

First half 

Both teams created early goalscoring chances in a wildly open start to the match. Kim Dong-heon pulled off a fine save from Elber's header moments after Incheon looked to have taken the lead inside three minutes. And it was Incheon who struck first when Hong Si-hoo responded quickly to a loose ball, firing first time from a tight angle.

After finding acres of space down the left flank, Kim Bo-sub picked out the unmarked Cheon Seong-hoon in the box. Cheon's shot bounced off the turf but goalkeeper Jun Ichimori could only parry it into the path of the arriving Hong Si-hoo. Hong stabbed home from a tight angle, galloping away to the Incheon bench in pure delight.

Yokohama came close to scoring during a sustained period of dominance on the half-hour. Firstly, captain Takuya Kida's delightful lob sent striker Asahi Uewnaka bearing down on goal. Before he could get his shot away, Kim Yeon-soo made a brilliant last-ditch tackle. From the resulting corner, Elber's swerving drive nearly deceived Kim Dong-heon in goal.


The tempo of the game had suddenly changed, and weirdly, it seemed to be matched by the ferocity of the away fans' chanting. As the shirts-off singing got more intense behind the north end, so did the Yokohama attack. Kim made a stunning save on 35 minutes from Kota Mizunuma but he could do nothing about Kaina Yoshio's free kick on 37 minutes. Kim was rooted to his line but fortunately for Incheon, the ball came back off the crossbar.

Perhaps sensing the major momentum shift hadn't brought the expected equalizer, the away fans suddenly went into a strange lull for two minutes. Maybe they were admiring the view of Sungui or the home fans' own cheering. Soon enough, the drums were banging and the visiting Japanese fought the brutal cold by jumping up and down for minutes and minutes on end.

Against the run of play, Incheon United survived, taking a gutsy one-goal lead to the changing room.

Second half

Incheon had the first sight of goal after the break and, much like the opening period, we didn't have to wait long for it. A well-worked corner routine was wasted when midfielder Choi Woo-jin blasted over, unmarked, from 15 yards. The frustration was audible all around the ground.

Apart from the inevitable substitutions, nothing of great significance happened until the 66th minute. Replacement Hernandes Rodrigues doubled Incheon's lead with a neat finish at the near post but this goal was all about the tenacity and never-say-die spirit of Kim Do-hyeok. Yokohama, probably presuming there was no danger, were slow out of the back and Kim Do-hyeok punished them for it. 

The Incheon 7 closed down an opponent, and barged past Yokohama players and teammates, before feeding Kim Bo-sub. Kim's low cross was met first time by Hernandes who cooly slotted home. On first viewing, the goal didn't look right, with the Japanese side vehemently protesting for an off-side. The lengthy VAR check meant the players stood motionless for several minutes in the cold air before the referee was allowed to award the goal.


Kim Bo-sub was replaced 15 minutes from time. It was a great outing, bettered only by the indefatigable Kim Do-hyeok. 

Yokohama got the goal their endeavor deserved on 83 minutes, and, to no one's great surprise, it was Elber who scored it. The Brazilian striker was on the end of a corner, unmarked from six yards out. It was a goal Yokohama deserved but Incheon will be disappointed with the manner of the concession, having defended so well for the entire game.

The final eight minutes of normal time and six minutes of added-on time were painful for fans and players alike. It was.....that cold, something the traveling press corps brought up in the post-game press conference. Thankfully, for the home team, Yokohama ran out of puff and the final whistle was greeted with a huge roar.

The fans

The official attendance of 5,712 fell short of Incheon's three previous home games in this season's AFC Champions League. The below-zero temperatures had a major impact on the spectator numbers. Incheon fans welcomed their team onto the field with an enormous FLY HIGH INCHEON banner and then unleashed it after the final whistle.

According to the pre-match media kit supplied by Incheon United, over 1,000 Yokohama fans were expected in Sungui Arena for this clash on a bitterly cold Tuesday night. It didn't quite look like that from the media seats but nonetheless, they were utterly impressive for virtually the whole 90 minutes. One good way to beat the freezing temperatures is to jump up and down non-stop, even shirtless.

Reaction


Yokohama manager Kevin Muscat was full of praise for how his own team played despite dropping points. He singled out, on several occasions, the role played by Incheon goalkeeper Kim Dong-heon in his side's loss. "The goalkeeper was excellent. He made two or three very good saves." Muscat also dismissed the cold weather as a possible excuse.

Manager Cho Sung-hwan and captain Oh Ban-suk then took their places in the post-match press conference. "I really want to thank the fans who visited during the cold weather but we will do our best to prepare a big surprise for them," remarked Captain Oh. Both manager and captain reiterated their pride in watching Incheon's young guns perform so well at this level. "The future is bright!" added Oh.

Up next

After a grueling season that began way back on February 25th, and included a journey to the semi-finals of the Cup and a first-ever continental adventure, Incheon United are firmly on the home straight now. They wrapped up their domestic home campaign with a comprehensive 3-1 beating of newly crowned back-to-back champions, Ulsan Hyundai, and tonight marked their final appearance in Sungui Arena this year.

But the season isn't quite over just yet. Incheon will make the trip to Daegu for a sold-out K League clash on Sunday and then wrap up 2023 in the Philippines against Kaya FC-Iloilo. 

Attendance: 5,712

Best player: Kim Do-hyeok




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