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Suwon booed off after Cheonan storm Big Bird

Bruno Mota's second-half strike was enough to give Cheonan City a famous victory in dreadful conditions on Saturday night. Suwon were booed off the park by a furious fanbase and have a week to turn their season around as they prepare for the visit of Bucheon FC.

Suwon Samsung  0
Cheonan City FC 1 (Bruno Mota 55')

The full scale of Suwon Samsung's dramatic fall from grace in recent seasons was laid bare on a dark and dank Saturday night. Cheonan City FC, who finished bottom of K League 2 last year and again occupy 13th spot, embarrassed a feeble Bluewings outfit thanks to Bruno Mota's second-half strike.

Local anger was evident as the fans who stayed until the end expressed their feelings vocally. Suwon's players were roundly booed at full time and as they made their way around the stadium, the noise grew louder and louder. It is difficult not to sympathize with the supporters, who are packing out grounds around Korea to support their team.

Over 8,000 were in attendance tonight, despite the horrendous conditions. The singing and cheering never let up, even after a turgid first-half display was punished by Mota’s winning goal. Unless the squad and management get their act together, they will play in front of small crowds on their journeys to lesser-known K League 2 venues.

Yeom Ki-hun, the home manager, will be grateful to have a round-off. Suwon are the only team not in action this coming Wednesday due to the odd number of teams in the division. After going top following the win over Anyang three weeks ago, Suwon have dropped eight points in three games and are very much at risk of slipping into the chasing pack.

As desperation set in, Suwon aggressively appealed every challenge and suspected handball around the Cheonan box. It had come down to that! Faced with the ultimate humiliation against a club competing at this level since 2023, Suwon harangued and harassed the match officials for minor offenses. They created a couple of good chances - Fejsal Mulic fluffed a one-on-one in the 82nd minute -  but overall Suwon panicked as soon as Cheonan scored. Moreover, the quality of their set pieces fell apart as the game wore on. The final 30 minutes was basically Suwon playing the ball wide, crosses coming in, and no one getting on the end of them. 

Simply put, there was nothing about this performance that makes you think this team is heading back to K League 1. It is going to be a long, painful season for the Bluewings. Only time will tell if the former K League champions have hit rock bottom or more humiliation awaits.

For Cheonan, the victors, a masterful away day performance in terrible weather conditions. They rode their luck at times, but this was a classic smash-and-grab win, on the road, against superior opposition. Manager Kim Tae-hwan was understandably delighted in the post-match press conference. In Mota, he possessed the game's outstanding talent. Mota could have scored another in each half in a brilliant display, leading the line and imposing himself on his opponents.


Manager Yeom Ki-hun handed Kazuki Kazuka a more advanced role, playing as a second striker. In possession and out of, the Japanese playmaker was often the most advanced Bluewings player. Kim Ju-chan and Son Seok-yong hugged the flanks. Kim Hyun was again preferred to Mulic, with Yoo Je-ho and Lee Jong-seong protecting the back four.

19-year-old Lee Sang-jun started at left-back, a position which is becoming a revolving door for the Bluewings. Lee is the third different occupant of that position in the last three games. There was a more familiar look to the rest of the Suwon back line, although Han Ho-gang’s continued absence at the heart of the defense is noticeable. 

Kazuka saw an effort cleared off the line midway through the first half after Jae Jong-hyeon inexplicably came a long way to meekly punch a cross away. With the goalkeeper out of position, Kazuka looked to exploit the situation but the ball was hacked away a yard from goal. Despite near-complete control of possession and one-way traffic throughout, that was Suwon’s only meaningful chance in the opening 30 minutes.

Understandably, Cheonan looked to frustrate their hosts, defending with 10 men behind the ball. Their task was also helped by a wet surface that made the ball hard to control. Kazuka and, especially, Kim Ju-chan were Suwon’s more dangerous players during a lethargic opening half. Kim looks close to his best down the right, beating opponents and fizzing in dangerous crosses that always seemed to elude his teammates.

As is often the case, the first goal almost came completely against the run of play. Mota, who worked tirelessly throughout the first half, brought out a good save from Yang Hyeong-mo with a fierce shot from the edge of the box. Later in the half, as two Suwon players lay on the ground looking for soft free kicks, Cheonan went close again. Much like a penalty decision that went against them in Mokdong, Suwon have a special ability to lose focus and concentration at crucial times.

The half-time whistle was met with relief by those in the stands. A terrible first half ended with Suwon owning 75% of the ball, having three shots on target and six corners to one. Cheonan’s only shot on target was the closest we came to a goal, however.

When play resumed after the break, it looked like more of the same but Suwon’s inability to keep a home clean sheet exposed once again. Mota opened the scoring on 55 minutes after good build-up play down the right by Jeong Seok-hwa. Jeong was another of the game's star performers and surely enjoyed getting one over Lee Jong-sung, who spent most of the first half barking at him for minor indiscretions. 

Within seconds of the ball rustling the back on the net, Yeom Ki-hun ordered the substitutes off the bench. Suwon upped the urgency but by now the rain was bucketing down. If Suwon found it hard to break down Cheonan defending a point, it was going to be a tall order with a goal advantage to protect. Mulic was summoned with 30 minutes to play, replacing Yoo Je-ho. This allowed Kazuka to drop further back and meant a rare Mulic-Kim Hyun partnership as Suwon looked to avoid humiliation.

Kazuku is a good player but his second-half set pieces were atrocious. Sometimes he overthinks simple passes, playing balls over the top that are never on, leading to cheap concessions. When chasing a game and you're a team completely out of form, patience is needed, not Hail Mary passes.

The moment of the match, for Suwon, arrived eight minutes from time. Mulic was played through on goal and with 8,000 fans expecting a late equalizer, the big striker shot straight at the goalkeeper and the chance went begging. It was telling how comfortable Cheonan were in those final minutes. This wasn't the kitchen sink barrage you'd expect. 

A very bad night for Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

Reaction

Kim Tae-hwan highlighted FC Anyang and Seoul E-Land as the two leading contenders for automatic promotion. I caught up with Mulic in the mixed zone. He said the atmosphere is good but "now we need to pull up our socks."

K League 2 is a tough division.

Line ups

Suwon Samsung: 

(21) Yang Hyeong-mo; (27) Lee Si-young, (30) Baek Dong-gyu, (20) Jo Yoon-sung, (29) Lee Sang-min; (6) Yoo Je-ho, (16) Lee Jong-seung, (14) Kozuka Kazuki; (99) Son Su-kyung, (7) Kim Hyun, (37) Kim Ju-chan.

Substitutes: (1) Cho Sang-hoon, (3) Jang Ho-ik, (13) Kim Bo-kyoung, (22) Kim Sang-jun, (10) Jeon Jun-woo, (36) Myeong Jun-jae, (9) Fejsal Mulic.

Cheonan City FC: 

(1) Je Jong-hyeon; (4) Kim Seong-ju, (20) Lee Jae-won, (3) Lee Woong-hee; (2) Oh Hyeon-kyo, (6) Jang Seong-jai, (32) Shin Hyeong-min, (90) Gu Dae-young; (14) Lee Gwang-jin, (7) Jung Seok-hwa, (9) Bruno Mota.

Substitutes: (21) Kang Jeong-mook, (5) Ma Sang-hoon, (27) Yoon Jae-seok, (24) Choi Sang-heon, (29) Han Jae-hoon, (30) Moon Keon-ho, (15) Kim Dae-jung.

The fans

Suwon supporters anticipating their first Saturday game of 2024 must have been distraught after opening their blinds in the morning. The rain arrived early in the morning and never let up throughout the afternoon. So wet was the day that, apart from the vocal supporters in the North Stand, the majority in the crowd chose to watch the match from a standing position under the overhanging upper tiers. 

Cheonan is only 45 minutes south of Suwon on the same metro line but despite this being their first appearance at Big Bird, the away end numbered around 60 fans. Perhaps the brutal conditions affected plans, and Cheonan are only into their second season as a professional club, but it was disappointing to see such a small visiting support.

Up next

Suwon will sit out matchday 12 due to the odd number of teams in K League 2. That round of fixtures will take place this coming Wednesday, on Buddha's Birthday. They will return to action next Saturday at 7pm (back-to-back Saturday evening games) at Big Bird when Bucheon FC make the short drive south. 

Cheonan City will hope to attract a big crowd to their municipal stadium for the midweek holiday fixture against promotion-chasing Seoul E-Land FC. Their home record is terrible, without a win there this season and a whopping 11 goals conceded. Cheonan will welcome Suwon on July 13th.


Best player: Bruno Mota
Attendance: 8,518

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