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Daejeon begin 2024 K League 1 season with draw away to Jeonbuk

Daejeon Hana Citizen conceded late away to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to settle for a point on the opening day of the 2024 Hana Bank K League 1 season. Latvia international striker Vladislavs Gutkovskis opened the scoring for what was his first goal for Daejeon but an Ahn Hyun-beom equaliser seven minutes from time meant the spoils were shared.

Match Summary

With 11 minutes on the clock, Vladislavs Gutkovskis showed great composure to find the top corner and put Daejeon 1-0 up. It was his first goal for the club having missed the end of last season with an injury.

Jeonbuk, after some personnel changes, levelled with substitute Ahn Hyun-beom coming off the bench to find an equaliser. The former Jeju wingback found himself high up the pitch on the left flank with Jeonbuk pushing for a leveler, cut in-field before dispatching his shot from the edge of the box.

Daejeon, having led for most of the proceedings, will feel like it was two points dropped, whereas Jeonbuk, following large spells of pressure, will feel as though the equaliser was their just desserts.

After a strong first five minutes from the hosts, Daejeon grew in confidence and started to impose themselves on the game. They were happy to sit and let Jeonbuk try and work their way through them. However, when a Jeonbuk player approached close enough to trigger a press, the Purples were quick to apply pressure and did so aggressively.

It was, then, similar to how Daejeon played for much of last season with an emphasis on counterattacking quickly. New captain Lee Soon-min was integral in that regard, putting in an all-action display in the centre of midfield, making key interventions, inceptions and tackles.

Leandro, who was given the nod to partner Gutkovskis in attack, was key in the Purples moving up the pitch quickly and the Brazilian linked up well with his new strike partner.

On another day, the former Seoul E-Land forward could have got himself on the scoresheet but, just as he was about to shoot, the ball was taken off his toe and Jeonbuk were able to clear their lines.

In the second half, just before Jeonbuk equalised in fact, Gutkovskis hit the cross bar with a header from close range.

It was his last contribution as, having not played 90 minutes since April 2023, and more than 60 minutes since July, had nothing left in the tank and was replaced by Kim Seung-dae.

Daejeon looked extremely dangerous on the counter and were organised and purposeful when winning the ball back and getting it into their front two.

It may not be the way Lee Min-sung wants to play football as he attempts to guide the team into the top six and even AFC Champions League qualification, but the travelling Daejeon fans - all 3,000 of them and more - will have been proud of their team's performance and application.

Daejeon's Shape

Daejeon were set up in a 5-3-2 with Hong Jung-un in the centre of a three with Aaron Calver to his right and Lee Jung-taek to his left. Park Jin-seong started at left wingback against his former employers and vice-captain Kang Yoon-seong was at right wing back.

Daejeo's shape without the ball during first half

The midfield three was skipper Lee Soon-min in the centre with Kim Jun-beom and U22 option Kim Han-seo on the right. Up top it was Leandro and Gutkovskis who were narrow out of possession but when Daejeon broke, Leandro was often quite wide with Gutkovskis looking to make diagonal runs.

Daejeon's Debutants

Lee Min-sung produced one or two surprises with his team selection. Injury forced Anton Kryvotsyuk out of the starting lineup so there was a debut for Lee Jung-taek who had only just sealed his move to the club earlier in the week. In the starting lineup alone, there were seven debuts in total including Lee with Hong Jung-un, Aaron Calver, Park Jin-seong, Kim Jun-beom, Lee Soon-min, and Kim Han-seo given their Daejeon bows. Goalkeeper Lee Jun-seo was making his K League 1 debut and playing in his first match for Daejeon's first team since September 2022, a 1-1 draw with Jeonnam Dragons in K League 2. Lee looked a little shaky and was caught in no man's land when trying to collect a couple of crosses but grew in confidence and made some important saves. With Lee Chang-geun recovering from an injury, Lee Jun-seo started.

33. Lee Jung-taek - Solid and confident performance, never looked flustered
6. Hong Jung-un - Dominant and combative
28. Aaron Calver - Progressive and confident performance, helped Daejeon get going from deep
24. Park Jin-seong - Got stuck in and showed a lot of fight
44. Lee Soon-min - Excellent all-round performance, strong in the tackle, determined and composed
14. Kim Jun-beom - Bright and tidy on the ball, credited with an assist
29. Kim Han-seo - Didn't look out of place, despite it being the 21-year-old's professional debut
12. Kim Seung-dae - 13-minute cameo off the bench, solid if not spectacular

Gutek's Performace

Daejeon signed Vladislavs Gutkovskis last summer but a ligament injury sustained in training meant his contributions last year were limited to just 185 minutes across three appearances. But in those three appearances, not to mention in training, 'Gutek' as he is known, must have made a lasting impression on the coaching staff at Daejeon. His performance against Jeonbuk was superb, he looked extremely sharp, he tracked back, made some good tackles, and linked up well with Leandro. His performance at Jeonju Castle was not one of a player who had been out with a serious injury for so long.

His goal was well-taken, too. With just 11 minutes on the clock, once Daejeon had got settled, left back Park Jin-seong's ball in towards the box was flicked on by Kim Jun-beom who was able to guide it into Gutek who took a touch before steadying himself and finding the top corner from about 12 yards out. The composure to take a touch and then the coolness of the finish, instead going for placement rather than power will have been very pleasing for Lee Min-sing, who was glowing in his assessment of Gutek's performance in the post-match press conference:

"I had no idea he'd perform quite as well as that. He didn't have a lot of time to recover [from his injury] and he had been building up his fitness through practice matches. I realised again that he is the type of player that our team needs..."

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Lee Min-sung Post-match Press Conference

On Gutek's performance, despite not being 100% fit:

"I had no idea he'd perform quite as well as that. He didn't have a lot of time to recover [from his injury] and he had been building up his fitness through practice matches. I realised again that he is the type of player that our team needs. We wanted someone who could fend opposition players off to score. It was good that in this first game, he did the things that were lacking last year. I'm looking forward to [seeing it] more."

Thoughts on Lee Jung-taek's performance:

"I was aware of what Lee Jung-taek can do, even though we didn't have him with us for pre-season. I'd told him the day before in a meeting that he wasn't going to play but Anton picked up an injury so Lee Jung-taek played. There wasn't a lot of preparation time [for him] but it is a position (LCB) where he's played a lot and he performed better than I expected. Even with some positional errors, he did very well for me in this first game."

On another encouraging result against Jeonbuk, and what he said to the players:

"We came away from home and were unable to get the win but nevertheless to get a point against Jeonbuk is encouraging. I was expecting it to be tough but the players did well and I think we played well as a team."

On Lee Soon-min playing like he's been with Daejeon for years:

"It was like he's always played for Daejeon. His committed style is something that Daejeon needed. Coming to the club, Lee Soon-min has been an example whether it be in terms of his performances on the pitch or as a defensive midfielder."

KLU Patreon: Dan Petrescu Press Conference Audio

On season aims and injury to Hernandes: here
Post-match press conference: here

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