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Ulsan's title defense suffers further setback following Suwon draw

Suwon FC continued their fine season with a well-deserved point at home to defending champions Ulsan HD. Suwon fell behind on the hour but were level within 10 minutes. Despite a superior line up and bench, Ulsan never looked like winning this match and will have to settle for a point before hosting Gwangju midweek.

Suwon FC 1 (Kang Sang-yoon 72')  
Ulsan HD 1 (Ataru 61')

Ulsan missed the chance to regain top spot from Gimcheon Sangmu after a battling draw in Castle Park on Friday night. Ulsan scored first but couldn't hold on, gifting Suwon a point they thoroughly deserved. Manager Hong Myeong-bo was all smiles in the press conference, as he batted away questions about Martin Adam, but he'll undoubetly harbour regrets on the long trip home.

In Darijan Bojanic, he possessed the game's best player. The Swede has two caps at international level, and that quality stood out on a hot and humid night. Particulary in the first half, his through balls were ripping Suwon apart, but with Joo Min-kyu experiencing a rare off-night and Martin Adam leaving, Ulsan lacked the killer instinct.

Suwon will be delighted to end a miserable run of nine straight losses to Ulsan. They might feel a first-ever home win over Ulsan was in their grasp but a draw was a fair result. It is worth bearing in mind that Ulsan have outscored Suwon 24-7 in those 9 games. Suwon are a different beast these days. This draw means they've already suprassed last season's total of 34 points, and their goal difference is far healthier.
Is this man the next Korean national team coach?


The opening five minutes of the game were end to end. Ulsan nearly scored after 30 seconds and then had another good opportunity moments later. After that, Suwon absolutely tore into their illustrious hosts, playing with the level of confidence you associate with from a team that avoided automatic relegation on goals scored, and now sits top 5. They couldn’t muster an attempt on target but it looked like the pace of the game had been set.

However, with close to 80% humidity, it was natural neither team could keep that frenetic pace up. There were half chances for both sides – Suwon are really dangerous on the break – and Ulsan had a goal ruled out. They came close in the 33rd minute but the referee spotted a push in the lead. In between these fleeting moments of excitement, the 7,378 inside Castle Park were treated to a passing exhibition by Swedish midfielder Darijan Bojanic. 

Um Won-sang picked up the game’s first card for dissent on 40 minutes. It was noticeable how the visitors had fallen on the wrong side of the referee to that point, and perhaps Um let him feelings known too aggressively. As we know, there’s absolutely no point challenging a referee’s decisions.

Suwon FC are fun to watch. It was speculated that after Kim Do-kyun’s departure, and the defensive reinforcements, it might lead to more structured game plan based around rock solid defense and hard-working midfielders. But once the home get a sniff of a break, they are gone. It is fun but without Lee Seung-woo, absent again, they lack that little bit of magic you need to unlock defenses like this.

That was the first half in a nutshell. Counterattacking Suwon lacking creativity in the final third, and Bojanic offering a passing exhibition from midfield.
Kang Sang-yoon celebtrates his equalizer.
Suwon created their best chance of the match early in the second period when midfielder Kang Sang-yoon played in the brilliant Yoon Bitgaram. Much to the surprise of those in attendance, Yoon didn’t make the necessary contact and the chance slipped away. That would prove crucial because minutes later, Ulsan took the lead.

Japanese midfielder Ataru notched his third of the season, cutting in from the left and placing a shot away from An in goals. The feed in the media box went dead during the celebrations but on first viewing, it looked like the goalkeeper’s view was blocked by the bodies in front of him. Ataru has a habit of scoring vital goals for his team. 

Second half substitute Kim Min-hyeok then collected a yellow for dissent, much like Um in the opening period. The Ulsan HD technical staff, sitting next to me, were growing increasingly tired of their teams’s lack of disclipine. 

Jut as it looked like like Ulsan were settling into their familiar three points against Suwon, Kang Sang-yoon, who was already having a fine game in midfield for the hosts, smashed home the equalizer. To this point, Ulsan fans made the most noise but when Kang rifled home from eight yards, the stadium absolutely erupted. Ulsan made a mess of defending a cross from the goal line, with experienced goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo inexplicably allowing the ball to bounce across the 6 yard box, offering Kang the chance to level.

Both sides had chances to win but a draw was the right result.

Line ups

Suwon FC: 

(13) An Jun-su; (88) Lee Yong, (15) Kim Tae-han, (21) Kwon Kyung-won, (26) Jang Young-qoo; (77) Kang Sang-yun, (14) Yoon Bitgaram, (8) Matheus Trindada; (7) Jeong Seung-won, (10) Ji Dong-won, (3) Park Cheol-woo.


Substitutes: (1) Park Bae-jeong, (23) Pratama Arham, (6) Choi Kyu-baek, (5) Lachlan Jackson, (28) Son Jun-ho, (70) Anderson (4) Jo Jun-hyun, (44) Jung Seung-bae, (27) Kang Min-sung

Ulsan HD: 

(21) Jo Hyeon-woo; (73) Yoon Il-lok, (5) Lim Jong-wun, (4) Kim Kee-hee, (2) Shim Sang-min; (11) Um Won-sang, (7) Ko Seung-beom, (6) Darjian Bojanic, (21) Ataru Esaka; (30) Kang Yoon-gu, (18) Joo Min-kyu.

Substitutes: (1) Jo Su-huk, (33) Kang Min-woo, (23) Kim Ju-hwan, (28) Jang Si-young, (97) Kelvin, (22) Kim Min-hyeok, (10) Kim Min-woo, (8) Lee Kyu-seong, (95) Matheus Sales

Up next

Suwon FC have already been eliminated from the Korean Cup so they have a free midweek to look forward in mid-July. But they will be in action this Tuesday when they make the long Tuesday visit to title-challengers Gimcheon Sangmu. Suwon will be back at home in round 23 when Daegu FC head to Castle Park.

Ulsan HD will head back to Munsu ahead of a huge three weeks that includes a Cup quarter-final against Incheon United. Gwangju visit this coming Wednesday followed by revitalised FC Seoul. The Cup tie falls between that game and a trip to Jeonju to face bitter rivals Jeonbuk Motors. Given Jeonbuk's much-publicised relegation issues, three points there would be epic.

Best player: Darijan Bojanic
Attendance: 7,378

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