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Busan IPark vs Asan Mugunghwa


Busan IPark are guaranteed to finish second in the K League 2, but their season is not over yet. With playoffs still to come later this month, Busan will want to get back into a winning rhythm after drawing blanks in their last two games. Their visitors to the Gudeok Stadium on Sunday are Asan Mugunghwa, who have dropped out of playoff contention after winning only one of their last eleven.

Last Time Out

Busan IPark 0-0 Jeonnam Dragons

Busan began their run of three playoff preparation matches with a goalless draw at home to Jeonnam last Sunday. Coach Jo Deok-jae rotated his squad for the visit of the Dragons and switched to a 3-4-3 formation with teenage wing-backs Park Kyung-min and Lee Sang-joon. As a result Busan were lively and full of running in the first half, and winger Lee Dong-joon was unlucky not to break the deadlock on 22 minutes after turning inside the box and forcing Park Joon-hyuk into a terrific flying save. Brazilian forward Diego Mauricio also looked sharp for the home team, and his ferocious shot from 25 yards clipped the post with Park beaten. Busan failed to make the most of several more opportunities against an open Jeonnam side, and the teams went into the break level.

The second half was a very different game. Jeonnam made two substitutions at the break and came out with more purpose with the prospect of playoffs still a remote possibility. They pinned Busan back for the majority of the half and almost took the lead through Kwak Kwang-seon, but the defender's header was well saved by Choi Pil-soo. Despite Jeonnam's dominance, they struggled to create clear-cut chances against a defence well marshalled by veteran centre-back Jeong Ho-jeong. Busan almost won the game themselves in the dying stages, but Soma Novothny and Lee Sang-joon both missed the target with late chances.



Bucheon 1995 3-0 Asan Mugunghwa

Asan Mugunghwa, meanwhile, continued their torrid run of results with a heavy loss away to Bucheon, their third defeat in succession. Bucheon took an early lead through Cho Soo-Cheol. When Asan failed to clear their lines, Cho was gifted space inside the box, and his left footed shot deflected in off Yang Tae-ryeol. The home side went on to dominate the first half, but Asan almost equalised in added time through an Oh Se-hoon header that sailed marginally wide.

Asan came fast out of the blocks after the restart, twice testing Bucheon keeper Choi Cheol-won, but it was Bucheon who scored the next goal. Guk Tae-jeong's left-footed free kick from 30 yards went straight through a porous Asan wall to nestle in the near-post corner. Asan continued to push for a comeback but Bucheon looked dangerous on the counter, and they eventually ended the game as a contest on 64 minutes. Midfielder Gam Han-sol broke away and kept his cool to finish past Je Jong-hyun, and Asan were only lucky that the home team failed to convert further chances.



Previous Meetings

Busan IPark have won half of the sixteen previous meetings between these sides, with Asan only getting the better of the seasiders on three occasions. However, one of Asan's victories came the last time they visited the Gudeok, in June of this year. Asan ran out 4-2 winners in that game, with a brace from Yang Tae-ryeol proving decisive.

Busan enjoyed their trips to the Yi Sun-shin Stadium this year, however. They thrashed the former military team 5-2 in April after Lee Jeong-hyeop scored a double inside the first 10 minutes, and they also won in August, when these sides last faced off. Soma Novothny was the hero for Busan that day, his goal before half time enough to secure a 1-0 away win.

Team News

Busan IPark will be without centre-back Kim Myung-joon after he picked up his ninth yellow card of the season last weekend. He is likely to be replaced by Australian international Aleksandar Susnjar, who returns after serving a two game ban for a red card against Suwon last month. Defensive midfielder Park Jong-woo is also unavailable after his sending off in the defeat to Ansan Greeners two weeks ago.

Last weekend coach Jo Deok-jae took the opportunity to reshuffle his pack, handing starts to three teenage defenders and reverting to a three-man defence flanked by wing-backs. He may decide to experiment again this Sunday as there is little for Busan to play for. He will, however, be eager to cement his best eleven before the playoffs begin, so it will be interesting to see how many first choice players take to the field against Asan.

Diego Mauricio has been industrious in recent outings.

Young wing-backs Lee Sang-joon and Park Kyung-min did themselves no harm with lung-bursting shifts last weekend, both getting forward regularly in addition to fulfilling their defensive duties. Towering centre-back Park Ho-young also looked composed on his first start for the club, and the return of veteran Jeong Ho-jeong brought some much-needed experience to the back line.

Further forward, there is still one place up for grabs in Jo's front three. Lee Jeong-hyeop and Lee Dong-joon are guaranteed starters in the playoffs, if fit, but Kwon Yong-hyun, Han Ji-ho, and Diego are all vying for the final spot. Kwon has looked lively in fits and bursts this year but his end product has been lacking, while captain Han looks entirely devoid of confidence, having faded after a bright start to the season. Diego has been the liveliest of the three in recent weeks, but it remains to be seen whether he can be trusted from the start in big matches.

The Adversary

Asan Mugunghwa started the season well enough, and they were well-positioned to mount a playoff challenge at the season's halfway mark. The loss of their key military players was always going to have a significant impact on their season, however. At the end of summer Asan lost international midfielders Joo Se-jong and Lee Myung-joo to FC Seoul, as well as top scorer Ko Moo-yeol to Jeonbuk Hyundai.

Since the trio's departure, Asan's form and results have suffered heavily. They have recorded only one win in their last eleven matches and are on a run of three straight defeats without scoring. The squad now appears to lack real quality, and judging by their loss last weekend to Bucheon, they are in need of a major reshuffle in the coming transfer window.

What To Watch

A Tale of Two Keepers

Choi Pil-soo has become Busan's undisputed number one keeper since the summer.

It was announced last week that Busan's second choice goalkeeper Kim Hyung-geun was on the preliminary list for military side Sangju Sangmu's squad next year. With nothing to play for on Sunday, coach Jo could hand the 25 year-old one final start before he departs for his mandatory service.

It has been a disappointing year for the young keeper. He started the season promisingly, ousting previous first-choice Koo Sang-min to become the club's number one, but his early career promise as a shot-stopper appears to have stagnated. Although he is still capable of top saves and shows impressive reflexes, he has been uncertain in the air and too prone to costly errors.

Summer signing Choi Pil-soo deserves a lot of credit for bringing a calm head and a safe pair of hands to Busan's defence. The 28 year-old had rarely been a first-choice between the sticks in his career at Anyang and Sangju, but he has looked assured throughout his time at Busan and has produced vital saves on numerous occasions.

The statistics back up Jo Deok-jae's decision to change custodians midway through the season. Both keepers have played 16 games, but Choi has recorded seven clean sheets compared to Kim's four. Choi has also conceded five goals fewer than Kim in the same number of games.

It will be interesting to see who gets the nod to start this Sunday. Choi Pil-soo will be Jo's number one when Busan enter the playoffs later this month, but this could be an opportunity for Kim Hyung-geun to remind Busan of his potential. If Kim gets the call, he'll need to do what he's failed to do so often this year: grab the chance with both hands.

Prediction

Busan have failed to score in their last two games, but they created enough chances last weekend and their drought should end on Sunday. Asan Mugunghwa may have won on their last visit to the Gudeok, but this is a very different side to the one that featured the likes Lee Myung-joo, Joo Se-jong, and Ko Moo-yeol. The away team are in poor form, and even if Busan shuffle the pack again I can still see them getting three points.

Busan IPark 3-1 Asan Mugunghwa



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