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Preview: Gwangju FC vs Jeonnam Dragons

Heading into their third game in just six days, Gwangju host Jeolla rivals Jeonnam Dragons at the Guus Hiddink Stadium in what is already their third clash of the season. Placed ninth in K League 2, pressure on Fabiano Soares eased slightly with a win over high-flying Busan I'Park before slipping to a heavy defeat at Ansan Greeners on Wednesday. Meanwhile, late drama saw Gwangju pick up another three points.

Last Time Out

Bucheon 1995 0-1 Gwangju FC

Gwangju extended their unbeaten start to the campaign to nine league games with a last-gasp victory in Bucheon. As the ball broke kindly for captain Yeo Reum in the box, the 29-year-old showed great composure to fire home into the bottom-right corner. Booked for overly jubilant celebrations following his 94th-minute winner, the midfielder's reaction encapsulated the relief among his teammates who struggled to break through following Guk Tae-jeong's sending off late in the first half.

While the Yellows dominated proceedings, it was in fact Bucheon who saw the better of the chances despite being a man down. Gwangju controlled the lion's share of possession, but in truth looked toothless in the absence of talisman Felipe, who saw red in the dying embers of last week's draw with Ansan.

Match highlights here.

Ansan Greeners 3-0 Jeonnam Dragons

Things did not go well for the Dragons in their first ever match against Ansan Greeners. Manager Fabiano Soares stuck with the formation and nine of the starting eleven that beat Busan 1-0 over the weekend to drastically different results. The 3-4-3 that held K2's best attack scoreless in Round 8 couldn't sustain several mental errors and a bit of bad luck going against them. After holding Ansan scoreless in the first half as planned, Jeonnam's Lee Ji-nam flailed at the ball and missed to take down Jang Hyeok-jin in the box just past the 60 minute mark. Gustavo Vintecinco sent Park Jun-hyuk the wrong way to put the hosts up 1-0.

The PK itself was the right call, but Vintecinco being on the field to take it remains controversial. The young Brazilian striker was originally sent off for elbowing Kwak Kwang-seon in the first half, but a VAR review changed the call to yellow and allowed the 23-year-old to stay on the field. He would later go on to capitalize on another Jeonnam mistake and chip the usually well positioned Park Junhyuk from just inside the halfway line. Jang Hyuk-jin added insult to injury and scored deep into stoppage time to give the Dragons their second 3-0 defeat of the season and third loss conceding three goals.

Match highlights on KLeague.com.

Previous Meetings

Gwangju may boast a mental advantage over Soares' visitors with the Yellow's completing a league and Cup double in late March. A solitary goal clinched victory on the road in the FA Cup before returning to Gwangyang just three days later to claim all three points in the league. Jeonnam will rightly be relieved that hot-shot striker Felipe is suspended following a straight red card in the 0-0 result with Ansan Greeners.

With the pair in different leagues last season, their last match-up prior to this term's double-header was also a victory for Gwangju as a six-goal thriller ended 4-2 back in 2017. Goals from Wanderson de Macedo and Kim Young-bin saw off Jeonnam in August 2017, with the Dragons last success in the Jeolla derby coming two months earlier as Jair struck the winner after Lee Han-do put the ball through his own net.

The Adversary

Following three straight 1-1 results, manager Fabiano Soares switched from his preferred 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3 marshaled by the recently returned Kwak Kwang-seon in the three man backline and a solid Park Jun-hyuk in net. With defenders on the flanks, the formation tended to play more like a 5-2-3 denying opposition the middle of the pitch and attempting to counter down the sidelines. The change worked relatively well against Busan, but fell flat against Ansan last time out. Despite the scoreline, the defense did relatively well against Asan other than the late Jang Hyuk-jin goal when morale was low and the team likely just wanted to get on the bus. The bigger issue facing Jeonnam is the fact that none of their three attacking options are providing any realistic threat to goal. Winter acquisition Bruno remains stuck on just one goal, and the converted defender Choi Jae-hyeon leads the team with two in spite of not playing overly well in the position. Soares' insistence on a three pronged attack has also meant playing vice captain and midfield general Kim Young-wook out of position up top in an attempt to spark the offense. Given that none of these options have worked overly well and Jeonnam just suffered yet another humiliating defeat, look for the manager to either revert back to his preferred 4-3-3 or change the formation yet again and (hopefully) go with a two man attack allowing for more of the midfielders to play in their preferred position.

Ryan Walters

Who To Watch - Cho Joo-young

There has been a conscious effort not to pick out Brazilian striker Felipe each week, but as the number nine has raced towards seven goals already this term he is likely to be a major loss during his suspension. With Ansan Greeners the first defence to stop the bustling forward-line of Gwangju from scoring this season, Felipe will be keen to ensure that he makes up for lost time upon his eventual return.

The man that manager Park Jin-seop has tasked with stepping into the big man's shoes is Cho Joo-young, who has been restricted to minutes from the bench until late. Impressing at National League side Gimhae and earning a move to Incheon United before heading south to Gwangju, Cho showed some great touches around the box in midweek without really troubling the Bucheon net. With Gwangju adopting a fruitful style of two wingers running off Felipe this season, Gwangju struggled to break down two banks of Bucheon defence on Wednesday and Cho appeared to drop back too deep in eagerness to influence the game. In what is set to be a more open encounter this weekend, Cho, who has been labelled as plan B by the boss, may be afforded more space and freedom in a leaky Jeonnam defence.


While you would expect Jeonnam to eventually pick up in terms of their league form and show some fight, this is undoubtedly a great opportunity for Gwangju to stretch to a magnificent 10-game unbeaten start to the season. With some suspect defending on show from this weekend's visitors up in Ansan, Park Jin-seop's impressive forward line should have no trouble getting on the score sheet.

Gwangju's man advantage clearly assisted in their dominance of Bucheon on Wednesday night, with another clean sheet for the increasingly impressive defensive partnership forged between Rustam Ashurtmatov and Lee Han-do. With Jeonnam lacking in confidence, having already fallen to defeat against their hosts twice this season and Gwangju having so many options for fresh legs out wide, I see little other than a comfortable home win.

Gwangju FC 2-0 Jeonnam Dragons

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