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Penalty agony for Cheongju as Seongnam advance in the Cup

Seongnam FC are through to the quarter-finals of the Korean Cup after beating Chungbuk Cheongju 5-4 on penalties. The game ended 1-1 and while Seongnam sometimes rode their luck, they did not care as they celebrated wildly in front of their fans. A trip to Gwangju awaits the Magpies in July.

Seongnam FC 1  (Christy Manzinga 5')
Chungbuk Cheongju FC 1 (Kim Ji-hoon 46')
Seongnam won 5-4 on penalties.

Seongnam are through to the Korean Cup quarters for the first time since 2020 after a nail-biting win over Chungbuk Cheongju. Christy Manzanga opened the scoring early for Seongnam but the home team spent most of the game holding on. Cheongju were desperately unlucky not to win the game at the end of 90 minutes and they will have several regrets on the late bus home.

Throughout the course of the 120 minutes, Cheongju looked fitter and, frankly, better than Seongnam but they were unable to convert their clear superiority into shots on target. Even their goal scored within a minute of the second-half restart, came from a defender notching the first of his career. They laboured in extremely difficult circumstances but there are no plaudits for second best in a cup competition.

Cheongju should have won and they know it. It was noticeable how much they upped the tempo in extra time. It felt like the team was trying to remove the jeopardy of penalty kicks. They failed and once the call was made to shoot into the Seongnam end, it felt inevitable they would be beaten. They only missed one kick, the second one, but that's all it took. Seongnam put all five away and now they are away, to Gwangju in July.

The conditions must have been brutal for the 22 players on the field. Those of us in the media seats were sweating profusely as Seongnam FC took an early lead. French striker Christy Manzinga broke down the left, showing the type of composure often lacking by more established strikers to side-foot from the edge of the box. 

Cheongju protested a challenge in the lead-up to the goal which led to a longer than expected stoppage. At one point, three of the four match officials were called in to placate the away dugout. This is a timely reminder of the pre-VAR world when managers and coaches would berate the officials knowing video replay would not come to their rescue.

A water break on 23 minutes was the least the players deserved for the effort they had put in during the opening quarter. I can’t stress just how hot and humid it was in Tancheon. After resting my arms on the table for a few moments, I noticed it was completely covered in sweat.

Much like their weekend destruction of Anyang, Seongnam are a really effective side on the break. They are happy to concede possession and territory, but look to counter at speed this was evident through the opening half. Seongnam were, however, indebted to their goalkeeper Yoo Sang-hoon for making a truly outstanding save five minutes from the break. 

Cheongju had two chances from headers to level the game, but Yoo repelled both. The second, especially, was masterful, as the goalkeeper was on his back basically scrambling on the deck, but still managed a strong hand to deflect the ball away. That double save brought an end to the opening period.

Yoo Sang-hoon kept his side in it with some big saves.
Whatever manager Choi Yoon-yeom said to his men at halftime must have been inspirational. Within 45 seconds of the restart, 23-year-old centre-back Kim Ji-hoon scored his first goal for the club after moving from Daejeon Hana Citizen over the winter. Kim slammed home a rebound from 12 yards to give his side a deserved equalizer. 

English striker Nathan Oduwa lasted 63 minutes of tireless work holding the line for the visitors. Immediately after his substitution was confirmed, the big screen flashed warnings about the heat wave gripping Korea, to further emphasize the point. Oduwa could only watch on as his charges, now led by the frequently brilliant Jang Hyeok-jin, looked to find the winner their dominance deserved.

Unfortunately, the visitors didn't create enough serious opportunities and the game looked to be heading for extra time when a raft of changes were made by both teams with five minutes to play. The Seongnam non-playing squad was next to me in the main stand. Occasionally they burst into short moments of excitement, but even they failed to muster the energy to cheer their team on as the clock began winding down. 

Just as it looked like the game was nearing its conclusion, Yoon Min-ho, Oduwa's replacement, was played through on 93 minutes. He rounded the keeper and facing an empty net, he blasted over. Tancheon nearly collapsed with shock until the assistant raised his flag for offside. Bizarrely, Yoon argued the call. Having missed an absolute sitter, you'd think he'd keep his head down.

That wasn't the end! The game ended in the most extraordinary of circumstances. All 22 players lay flat out on the turf after substitute Kim Seon-min's 20-yard drive crashed off the post and bounced away. The referee blew his whistle at that moment. An exciting end to an otherwise forgettable 90 minutes. 

We headed for extra time. No one wanted extra time.

Once the game went beyond 90 minutes, Cheongju were in complete control. Perhaps looking to take the jeopardy of penalty kicks out of the game, the visitors pulverized Seongnam in the second half of extra time. They looked fitter, faster, stronger, and more creative as wave after wave of Cheongju attack pummeled the Magpies' box. The elusive winner was within their grasp but like much of the preceding 120 minutes, they simply couldn't take their opportunities and Seongnam were let off the hook. 

The jeopardy of penalties awaited!

Line ups

Seongnam FC: 
(1) Yoo Sang-hoon (3) Kang Ui-bin, (23) Kim Kun-il, (29) Jang Hyo-jun, (4) Han Suk-jong, (6) Jeong Won-jin, (19) Yang Tae-yang, (24) Jang Young-gi, (13) Jeon Seong-su, (47) Park Ji-won, (99) Chris

Substitutes: Heo Ja-woong, (28) Yoon Yeong-sun, (15) Yang Si-hoo, (11) Kim Jeong-hwan, (17) Shin Jae-won, (23) Jeong Jae-yoon, (88) Kook Kwan-woo.

Chungbuk Cheongju FC: 

(18) Jeong Jin-wook, (6) Jeon Hyeon-byeong, (13) Kim Ji-hoon, (19) Kim Min-sik, (22) Benecio, (39) Kim Myeong-soon, (11) Yang Ji-hoon, (41) Miyuki, (99) Hong Won-jin, (10) Paulinho,  (16) Nathan Oduwa.

Substitutes: Jang Hyeok-jin, Kim Seon-min, Jeong Hyeon-ho, Yoon Min-ho, Lee Gang-han, Jeong Min-woo, Lee Chan-woo.

The fans

This is Cheongju’s second season at fully professional level. They were close to a playoff spot in their debut season and this, year despite a lot of draws, are well in contention for a berth in the post-season shakedown. Their traveling support, numbering approximately 100, was superb tonight and completely outplayed their Seongnam counterparts. Whatever song Cheongju sing at the beginning of the game is a belter.

These midweek Cup games are never the most attended in the footballing calendar and Tancheon was no different. Perhaps buoyed by their early lead, the Magpies were largely quiet in the opening period, save for protesting decisions and drum-banging when their goalkeeper launched a kickout.

Up next

Seongnam are on the road this Saturday. They make the short trip west to Big Bird to take on Suwon Samsung. The walls of two stands in Tancheon are adorned with a list of Seongnam’s achievements, from league titles, to FA Cups to successful Asian conquests (much like Suwon), and, yet two of the country’s most glamorous clubs will meet in the beautiful surroundings of the Suwon World Cup Stadium for the very first time at K League 2 level. Seongnam won the corresponding fixture last month 3-1.

Cheonju will have an extra day’s rest but they, too, will be on the road. Bucheon FC 1995, near Seongnam, will provide the opposition at 7pm on Sunday. Bucheon, Seongnam, and Suwon are all level on 21 points but Bucheon have played a game less. Given all four sides mentioned – Seongnam, Cheongju, Suwon, and Bucheon - are involved in midweek Cup action, it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. 

Best player: Yoo Sang-hoon
Attendance: 2,000

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