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Preview: Gyeongnam FC vs Chungnam Asan

Gyeongnam FC vs Chungnam Asan
An improving Gyeongnam FC outfit play host to basement dwellers Chungnam Asan on Sunday evening.  The Reds' will be hoping to continue their fine rich vein of form by taking home the spoils.  Asan did beat Gyeongnam in the opening fixture between the two sides early last month in a narrow 2-1 victory.  Can the home side continue their push for promotion or will Asan travel south and grab all three points?  KLU's James Edrupt previews this one.

Match: Gyeongnam FC vs Chungnam Asan.
Venue: Changwon Football Center.  Changwon.
Kick off: Sunday, August 16th, 2020: 18:30 (KST)

Last Time Out

Daejeon Hana Citizen 2-3 Gyeongnam FC

This has got to be the comeback of the season by the visitors so far in the K League 2 to date.  Substitute Ko Kyung-min was the hero for the Changwon based outfit curling home the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time to bring the points south.

The game started at quite a frantic pace with no team stamping their authority on proceedings.  However, it was the home side who edged in front on twenty-one minutes through an own goal from Dutchman Luc Castaignos, who to his credit knew nothing about it.  The ball ricocheted off his stomach from a corner whipped in, past the hapless Hwang Sung-min in goal.   Daejeon was to double their advantage through leading marksman Luis on thirty-three minutes.  He anticipated a low cross into the box quicker than a lunging Lee Kwang-seon and guided the ball into the far corner to put the hosts in total control.

Gyeongnam manager Seol Ki-hyeon shuffled the pack at the interval and it paid dividends instantly with the visitors dominant throughout.   They got their just rewards on sixty-six minutes when the ever influential Hwang Il-soo crossed for Baek Sung-dong to head the ball over the line after his initial effort was missed.  After several missed chances the Reds finally got back on level terms through the aforementioned Hwang.  The experienced winger was quickest to react and prod home after a towering header by center back Lee Kwang-seon was knocked across the goalmouth.

The winner was a combination of luck and a piece of quality finishing.  Gyeongnam was swarming all over Daejeon and could smell blood.  The stats proved it with them having 62 percent possession.  The ball broke on the right-wing to substitute Negueba who was full of running and his hopeful looking cross into the area was blocked causing the ball to loop into the air.  Attacking midfielder Ko Kyung MIn anticipated where the ball would drop and after taking a great first touch to get the ball from out of his feet, he curled a great effort past the full stretched dive of Kim Jin-young from the edge of the penalty area.  Daejeon remains in second place in the league, just one point below Suwon FC, whereas Gyeongnam closes the gap on the playoff places and moves up to sixth.

Jeju United 2-1 Chungnam Asan

The Monday night fixture went to form, with the islanders just pipping The Owls by the odd goal on a hot and balmy night in Seogwipo.

The first half was an even enough contest with nothing much to separate the two sides.  In truth, Asan was not playing like a side propping up the table at present.  They looked very assured on the ball and were playing with great confidence.  Jeju was to get their noses in front however just nine minutes before the break courtesy of striker Kong Min-hyun who stroked the ball home after a through ball under-hit, somehow managed to squirm into his path perfectly.  Kong's strike was his fifth of the season.

The hosts were to double their lead and grab a full grip on proceedings just before the seventieth-minute mark.  The second goal came from midfielder Lim Dong-hyuk as he ghosted in between two Asan defenders and passed the ball into the net from a matter of two yards out after a cross was flashed across the area.  The former Bucheon FC 1995 player grabbed his second goal of the campaign.

Newly formed Asan to their credit never game up and continued pushing for a way back into the contest.  They got their just rewards with a goal late with just four minutes left on the clock by Austrian forward Armin Mujakic.  It was a towering header from a corner, which set up an extremely nervous last few minutes for the home side.  They managed to stand strong and win.  The victory cements Jeju in third place but with a game in hand over their rivals.  Three points in that game against Bucheon FC 1995 would see them go to the top of the K League 2.  Chungnam Asan despite all their efforts came away with nothing and remain at the bottom of the division.

Previous Meetings

The two sides clashed earlier this campaign with it being a memorable one for Chungnam Asan.   They beat Gyeongnam 2-1 earning their first-ever win in their history.

Swedish striker Phillip Hellquist opened the scoring from the spot just five minutes before the interval.  They doubled their advantage just nine minutes after the break, through a low drive by midfielder Lee Jae-gun.  Winger Baek Sung-dong did pull one back in the 67th minute to set up a grandstand finish.  However, the hosts stood firm to pick up their first three points as newly formed Chungnam Asan.  It proved to be a feisty contest, with the referee Jeong Dong-sik dishing out eight yellow cards on the night.  Five for Asan and three for Gyeongnam FC.

Team News

Manager Seol Ki-hyeon has a striking dilemma on his hands.  Park Gi-dong came off the bench against Daejeon last time out and performed superbly holding up the ball linking play with the attacking midfielders.  Dutchman Luc Castaignos looked a bit isolated up top on his own and he couldn't make the ball stick.  He was substituted as a result at halftime.  It will be interesting in seeing who the gaffer opts with against Asan.  The Reds will have to do without the services of towering center half Lee Kwang-seon on Sunday evening.  He accumulated five yellow cards so must serve a one-game suspension as a result.  Australian Nick Ansell will be hoping to step into the center of defense as his replacement.

Injured first-choice goalkeeper Son Jung-hyun has made a full recovery and will be looking to start in between the sticks after a two-week layoff.  His deputy, Hwang Sung-min signed from Jeju United in the winter has been more than an able replacement.  The manager has a lot of thinking to do before the weekends' fixture.  The rest of the squad is fit and raring to go, looking to continue their recent good set of results.

The Adversary

The Owls manager Park Dong-hyuk was very upbeat despite the loss in the match against Jeju:  "It was a difficult trip to Jeju.  The performance in the second half was satisfactory. It became more difficult for us after conceding, and that is something that we must work on.  The players need to be more alert, but they also have to have enough confidence in themselves to know that they can go out on the pitch and get results."  The loss against Jeju United broke their six-match unbeaten streak away from home this campaign, winning one and drawing five.

Lee Ki-hyun has re-established himself as Asan's number one goalkeeper; his last start against Jeju was his seventh consecutive one.  Asan has conceded just ten goals over that span, so they have gotten more organized in defense since he took over between the sticks.  Philip Hellquist has established himself as a legitimate goal threat, finding the net four times in his last six matches.  Meanwhile, Armin Mujakic finally bagged his third goal of the season against Jeju after coming under some criticism from Park Dong-hyuk for his lack of goal production.  The manager does consider him valuable as an attacking option however because of his good link and holdup play.  Asan will be without regular defender Park Jae-woo who will be serving the last of his two-match ban after he received a straight red a fortnight ago in the home loss to Daejeon Hana Citizen.  The rest of the squad is fit and available for selection.

What To Watch

Are Gyeongnam FC just beginning to click at the right time?

The Reds' have been showing some very promising signs of late.  They go into the clash against Chungnam Asan unbeaten in four matches (winning two, drawing two).  The main problem hurting the club at the start of the season was the uncertainty of what back four Seol Ki-hyeon would be selected on any given match day.  After tinkering for what seemed like all season he has finally got his preferred back four.  With them all staying injury and suspension free the Changwon based club should be looking up the table rather than down.  

Getting in youngster Choi Jun on loan from K League 1 side Ulsan Hyundai has proved to be a masterstroke.  The energy levels he gives the side bombing up and down the right-wing is a joy to watch.  Lee Jae-myeong has been impressive at left-back with his good positional sense and his reading of the game and tenancy in the tackle.  The center-back pairing of Lee Kwang-seon and the ever-improving Bae Seung-jin have formed a good relationship alongside each other.  

The players in front of the back four have been causing some issues as well in the early parts of the campaign.  The style of play was very labored and slow, allowing the opposition to get back into position and re-organize their shape.  Captain Ha Sung-min was playing through niggling injuries and just hasn't looked the same player since.  Another loanee signing Jung Hyuk has arrived from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and his experience and reading of the game have allowed the other more attacking players like Jang Hyeok-jin to flourish around him.  Both wingers in Baek Sung-dong and Hwang Il-soo on there day are two of the best in this division.  In recent weeks they have started to pick up form.  Hwang was missing for a month recently and his presence and raw pace on the flank were hurting the team with him being on the sidelines  The re-emergence of Luc Castaignos and the upturn in fortunes of experienced striker Park Gi-dong has the forward line looking very strong.  With competition for places hotting up right now, Seol Ki-hyeon's men will be looking to make a push for automatic promotion or at the very minimum a spot in the play-off places.

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This will be a closer game than a lot of people will be thinking.  Chungnam Asan have won eight of their eleven points away from home.  Simply put, they play better on the road.  Gyeongnam are very strong at home, only losing once to Seoul E-Land back in early July.  With all due respect to Asan, the Reds' must be winning games like this at home if they want an instant return to K League 1.  With the hosts just starting to click into gear and with them having two days extra rest than the visitors, I think a narrow home victory is on the cards here.

Predicted score- Gyeongnam FC 1-0 Chungnam Asan

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