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Timeless Ki unlocks Jeju for Seoul's first win

Captain Ki Sung-yueng rolled back the years with an outstanding display to end FC Seoul's wait for a first win of the season. It was far from a vintage home performance but manager Kim Gi-dong now has the short international break to work with his new players, including second-half substitute Jesse Lingard.

FC Seoul 2-0 Jeju United

It took until the third attempt but FC Seoul are off the ground and running after recording their first win of the season. Ki Sung-yueng was excellent in midfield, playing the full 90 minutes, and was last seen pointing to his wrist and telling the referee that added-on time had lapsed. His biggest contribution, however, was scoring a brilliant second goal moments after Seoul had taken the lead.

It was an incomplete performance from Seoul with the second half largely passing them by, despite the much-celebrated introduction of Jesse Lingard and Aleksandar Paločević in the 56th minute. The challenge for Kim Gi-dong and his coaches will be to create a 90-minute performance from their players, instead of the occasionally brilliant but often disjointed display we saw today.

Ki was exceptional in midfield.
For all the flaws, Seoul can rightly celebrate this win, against a team above them in the table. Three points, a clean sheet, no injuries, more game time for Jesse Lingard, a debut for Iraqi defender Rebin Sulaka, and a very promising first start for Choi Jun were the highlights for the home team. Onwards and upwards.

Unsurprisingly, Seoul looked short of confidence early in the game, allowing Jeju to settle and dominate possession. Debutant Sulaka grew into the game and will be delighted to have played the full 90 minutes after a shaky start. This was possibly due to communication issues with his new teammates, but by the end, he looked composed as Seoul denied Jeju many clear cut chances.

Somewhat against the run of play, Seoul blew the game open with two goals in quick succession.

Firstly, Jeju midfielder Han Jong-moo needlessly went through the back of Kim Ju-sung inside the box, precipitating the longest VAR check of the season. The long delay didn't faze Stanislav Iljutchenko who sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and cooly slotted to his right. It was Iljutchenko's first of the season and the relief around Sangam was palpable.

The second goal, just four minutes later, was a real beauty. Choi Jun, starting at right back for the first time, evaded his man with a lovely piece of skill, opening up acres of space downthe right. His cross wasn't properly cleared and captain Ki Sung-yueong, already having a big influence, drilled home an unstoppable 25-yard-drive. At first glance, there appeared to be a foul in the build-up but the VAR officials instructed the referee to play on.

Han, who gave away the penalty for the opener, was one of two substitutions made by Kim Hak-beom to wrestle back control of this game on 32 minutes. It didn't work.

And just like that, Seoul were purring. Especially down their right side, with Choi Jun a livewire in attack and defense linking well with Cho Young-wook. Former Suwon Bluewings defender Kim Tae-hwan was having a tough outing on the other flank and he deservedly picked up a yellow card on 30 minutes, much to the pleasure of the home fans.

It was clear the two goals in quick succession knocked Jeju completely off their game, and despite creating the odd half-chance, they never threatened Choi Chul-won in the home goals. As half-time approached, the visitors did lead in yellow cards, 4 to 3, in a spicy affair.

The second half began with just one change for the visitors. The weather did change, unfortunately, as the warm and bright spring afternoon suddenly felt a few degrees colder as the clouds moved in. The 29,536 in attendance were now hoping the players could keep them warm with more exciting football in the second 45.

Jeju slowly began working their way back into the contest and Kim Gi-dong made what, on paper at least, looked like a sensible double substitution on 57 minutes. Aleksandar Paločević and Jesse Lingard were summed to replace Ryu Jae-moon and Han Seung-kyu. Perhaps the move was preplanned, but with Jeju in the ascendancy, fresh legs and new ideas were definitely needed.

If Lingard's introduction was meant to shift the momentum of the second half away from Jeju, it didn't really work until the final 10 minutes, when Jeju had Lim Chae-min sent off. Lingard was busy to that point but Seoul were on the barefoot. After Lim's second yellow, it was end-to-end stuff and the crowd began to sense some late drama. It felt inevitable Lingard would be the man to produce it. 

Lingard struggled to get into the game but was a prominent figure during the chaotic final 10 minutes.
He set up Ki for a late chance that was saved. As the faithful chanted his name, Lingard waved his arms in the air, encouraging them to scream louder. They obliged. From the corner, the English international saw his cross end up in the back of the net. He celebrated but the assistant had flagged for offside. Lingard was booked for his protests.

The game ended with Jeju on the attack in search of consolation. Despite dictating the tempo for most of the half, Jeju never brought out a save from Choi in goal and the home side were relatively comfortable at the back. Seoul will have plenty of time to reflect on the nature of this performance but most importantly, Kim Gi-dong has his first win as boss and the added bonus of a clean sheet. 


Kim Hak-beom, Kim Gi-dong, and Ki Sung-yueng were all available at the post-match press conference. I was able to catch up with FC Seoul striker Stanislav Iljuchenko in the mixed zone. The big striker admitted, "The start of the season was not as we planned but it was important to get the won before the international break, especially at home."

Stanislav Iljutcenko after the game shared his thoughts with K League United. 

Line ups

FC Seoul: (21) Choi Wol-chul; (88) Lee Tae-suk, (30) Kim Ju-sung, (14) Rebin Solaka, (16) Choi Jun; (29) Ryu Jae-moon (Lingard 52'), (66) Han Seung-kyu (Palo 57'), (6) Ki Sung-yueong; (32) Cho Young-uk, (90) Stanislav Iljutcenko (Park Dong-jin 69'), (15) Kang Sang-woo.
Substitutes: (1) Baek Jong-beom, (3) Kwon Wan-kyu, (26) Aleksandar Paločević, (7) Lim Sang-hyub, (9) Kim Sin-jin, (10) Jesse Lingard, (11) Kang Sung-jin, (50) Park Dong-jin, (94) Willyan.

Jesse Lingard again started on the bench as manager Kim Gi-dong made alternations to the starting XI that drew with Incheon United last week, notably a debut for big Iraqi centre-back Rebin Solaka. Park Dong-jin dropped to the bench, alongside Aleksandar Paločević. Japanese midfielder Shigehiro Takuya missed out altogether. Willyan made the bench for the first time this season.

Jeju United: (1) Kim Dong-jun; (32) Lee Ju-yong, (4) Song Ju-hoon, (26) Lim Chae-min, (16) Kim Tae-hwan; (36) Kim Sung-seup (Jin Seon-wook 32'), (5) Italo Barcelos, (30) Choi Jong-jun (Yeon Jae-woon 91'), (24) Han Jong-moon (Seo Jin-soo 32'); (11) Tales (Reis 46'), (9) Yuri Jonathan.

Substitutes: (21) An Chan-ki, (22) An Tae-hyeon, (20) Yeon Jae-woon, (6) Kim Jeong-min, (28) Kim Jae-min, (8) Kim Geon-woong, (14) Seo Jin-soo, (10) Reis, (18) Jin Sung-wook.

The fans

FC Seoul and Jeju United played at World Cup stadiums 477 km apart, as the crow flies. This makes Seoul one of the longest away trips for Jeju and their supporters. They brought around 300 to Sangam, with their full array of flags, banners, and jerseys. Inevitably, they were drowned out by the home support, especially once Lingard arrived. The 29,000-or-so home fans were basically screaming the ball into the net in those final few minutes.

The away end. (Image: instagram.com/groundhopkoreafc)

Up next

This is the final round of fixtures before the international break. When the league resumes, FC Seoul will travel to Chuncheon to face Gangwon FC at 2pm on Sunday, March 31st. Interestingly, Seoul have a mediocre record against Gangwon and last picked up 3 points in Chuncheon in April 2019.

Jeju United will be back in action a day earlier, against Pohang Steelers on Saturday, March 30th. Jeju's home record against Pohang is surprisingly strong, with just three defeats in Seogwipo in the last 15 meetings, stretching back to 2013.

Jeju welcome Seoul to Seogwipo on Saturday, July 6th.

Best player: Ki Sung-yueng.
Attendance: 29,536

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