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FA Cup Preview: Ulsan Citizen vs Bucheon FC 1995

Round two of the FA Cup is here and teams from K League 2 have entered the competition. With one of the biggest gulfs in league positions in the round, K4 League team Ulsan Citizen will host a K League 2 side for the first time in their history. Their opponents are current K League 2 leaders Bucheon FC 1995, a club that fell at the first hurdle last year but have made it as far as the semi-finals in the recent past.

Last Time Out

Seoul Nowon United 1-2 Ulsan Citizen

After experiencing an underwhelming start to the season with a 1-1 draw away to Icheon Citizen and a 2-0 home loss to Pocheon Citizen, Ulsan finally secured a win against the K4 league's bottom side. Both of Ulsan's goals were scored by Song Jae-hun, who also scored once in the FA Cup first round. The first goal came in the 27th minute when Ulsan worked their way up the pitch from a goal kick, eventually finding Song unmarked by the six yard box for him to power a shot into the goal. 

Ulsan doubled their lead in similar fashion 12 minutes later, as they built up an attack from a free-kick won in their own half, which was finished off by Song winning the battle against his marker in the penalty area and slotting home passed the keeper from close range. Seoul pulled one back in the 75th minute when Jun Gun-wook lobbed the keeper after getting his boot on the edge of a long ball. Ulsan managed to hang on till the end and achieve their first win of the season. This win lifts them up to seventh place in the 13 team league, level on points with four other teams.

Highlights of the match can be viewed here.


Suwon FC 1-2 Bucheon FC 1995

Both teams were level on points and only separated by goals scored going into last Sunday's match, with Suwon in second place and Bucheon in third place. Suwon's sole defeat of the season was on matchday one whereas Bucheon's had come in the previous game last Tuesday against rivals Jeju United, so it looked like Suwon were the side with the momentum. However, Bucheon came away with the three points courtesy of a brace from forward Lee Hyun-il. Bucheon took the lead in the sixth minute when Jefferson Baiano sent a cross through the penalty area, and Lee stretched out his left foot from the corner of the six yard box to squeeze the ball in at the near post. The lead did not last too long as Suwon equalised in the 31st minute, when An Byong-jun ran solo into the penalty area and slotted a left-footed shot under the Bucheon goalie. 

While the match would remain even in terms of chances and possession, the score would not stay the same. In the 61st minute right-back Kim Kang-san would cross the ball into the penalty area, only for it to meet a Suwon defender. Fortunately for Bucheon, the ball would then ricochet against the post and fall into the path of an unmarked Lee Hyun-il, who would fire in from close range. Lee might have scored a hat-trick in the 67th minute, but his shot was rightly ruled offside. Lee has now scored three goals this season and is one away from levelling with his most productive campaign, which was 2018. Thanks to Daejeon Hana Citizen's draw with Gyeongnam, Bucheon have returned to the top of the K League 2 table and will next face fifth place Jeonnam Dragons at home in the league. 

Highlights of the match can be viewed here.

Previous Meetings

This will be the first meeting between the two clubs. This is not only due to their differing positions in the football pyramid, but also because Ulsan Citizen was only founded last year. In 2019 they began competing in the now defunct K3 League Basic and became league champion by one point in their inaugural season, losing only once in the eight team league all year. They did less well in their debut FA Cup campaign, being knocked out in the first round on penalties to Yonsei University. This means that this season is their best ever FA Cup run, after defeating K5 League club Gimhae Jaemics FC 5-1 in the first round.

Bucheon's campaign also ended before it could begin last year, losing to 3-1 at home after extra-time to Seoul E-Land. Bucheon also lost in their first match in 2018 away to Busan IPark 2-1, meaning that they have not won an FA Cup match since reaching the last-16 in 2017. Their best ever performance in the FA Cup was in 2016 when they reached the semi-finals, losing to FC Seoul after previously knocking out K League 1 clubs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Pohang Steelers. That year was also the last time that they played lower league opposition in the competition, defeating both Gyeongju Citizen of the K3 League and Halla University. The last time that Bucheon lost to a lower division side was in 2013, when they were defeated away on penalties to K3 club Jeonju Citizen.


Team News

Bucheon again named an unchanged starting line-up and reverted back to the 3-4-3 formation, after their sole attempt at playing 3-5-2 ended in defeat against Jeju United. Bucheon have seven players on one yellow card and no injuries, so manager Song Sun-ho could select his strongest squad if he wanted to. That is not the norm in the FA Cup, but due to the impressive performances of lower league sides in the competition last year, a team like Bucheon could genuinely challenge for the trophy if they took it seriously. Against lower league opposition though, there is likely to be some squad rotation as the manager has made only one change to the starting line-up over all five league matches. 

Not only is it a good opportunity to give young plays some first team experience, but also it is probably the best chance of allowing some senior players to compete for a regular place in the squad. Several players that joined in the winter transfer window, such as Kwak Hae-sung and Yoon Shin-young, have lots of experience but have barely played so far this season. If the manager wants to keep moral high across the whole squad, then rotations will be necessary.

The Adversary

Ulsan Citizen's top scorer this season is last weekend's brace scorer Song Jae-hun, who has scored three goals in all competitions. Considering that Saturday's match against Seoul Nowon United was his first start of the season, he could become an integral player for Ulsan sooner rather than later. Another key position on the pitch is that of goalkeeper. Choi Sung-gyum started out as first choice in goal at the beginning of the season, but failing to keep a single clean sheet saw him dropped on Saturday in favour of Lee Sun-il. Ulsan again failed to keep a clean sheet, but by simply being a part of their first league win of the season Lee may have secured himself a starting spot against Bucheon.

Ulsan Citizen have played four matches in all competitions this season and have rotated their formation quite regularly, playing 4-1-4-1 and 3-4-3 once each. Twice they have played using a 4-1-2-3 formation, and both of those matches ended up being their only two victories so far this season. As this is the first time in their history playing a competitive game against a K League 2 club, it is unclear how Ulsan will approach the game. Will they defend intensively and try to steal a goal? Or will they look to surprise Bucheon by sticking with their passing philosophy?


Who To Watch

There are seven Bucheon players that have played in every single minute this season, but by far the most surprising inclusion is Kim Kang-san. The 21 year-old is playing in his first ever professional season after previously being a student at Daegu University. His preferred position is as a centre-back or centre-mid, but this season he has successfully alternated between playing as a right-back and on the outside of a back three. His playing time is partly attributed to the K League rules stating that a U-22 player must be in the starting line-up, but most clubs opt to substitute that player relatively early on. The fact that Kim has not been substituted yet shows that he is in the squad on merit, especially since he is keeping out several players far more experienced than he is. Of course, he may not even play on Saturday if the manager does decide to rotate his squad. However, that barely matters as he should permanently be on all peoples lists of who to watch in a Bucheon match.

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Prediction

The most exciting thing about cup matches is the fact that anything can happen and there are giant-killings every year. It is almost impossible to predict who will be the latest victim, or who will brush aside lower league opposition like it's no trouble at all. However, based on the sizes of the two clubs and the performances that they have both had this season, Bucheon should come away with a victory.

Ulsan Citizen 0-3 Bucheon FC 1995



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