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Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Gwangju FC

Having suffered FA Cup heartbreak in midweek, Pohang Steelers welcome Gwangju FC to the Steel Yard on Sunday, September 27. Can the Steelers start the Final Round of the 2020 Hana 1Q K League 1 season on a positive note, or will the visitors spring a surprise? Pohang Steelers columnist Shibajee Das previews the match.

Last Time Out

FA Cup Semi-final: Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 Pohang Steelers AET (4-3 on pens.)

K League 1 top scorer Junior Negrao started on the bench for Ulsan against East Coast derby rivals Pohang in the 2020 FA Cup Semi-final. Bjorn Johnsen led the attack for the Horangi and it was he who had the first meaningful chance but dragged his effort well wide in the 9th minute of the match. At the other end, Song Min-kyu shot straight at the keeper with the Steelers' first attempt on goal. In the 12th minute of the match, Kim Tae-hwan had the ball at his feet near the halfway line with very little danger, but he tried a lob pass back towards his keeper Jo Hyeon-woo. The lob completely caught Jo by surprise as the ball went past him and sailed into the back of the net. Out of nowhere, Pohang had the lead in bizarre circumstances. Kim In-sung then forced Kang Hyun-moo into a routine save as the home side tried to find a way back into the match.

Junior was sent on at the start of the second half but it was Hong Chul who proved to be the catalyst when his well-struck free-kick came back off the post and Kim In-sung stroked the ball into an unguarded net in the 53rd minute. Both keepers made several smart saves to take the contest into extra-time. In the additional 30 minutes, neither team could take their chances as the match went into penalties. What ensued was an epic shootout. Stanislav Iljutchenko, Kim In-sung, Junior Negrao, Aleksandar Palosevic, Jung Seong-hyun, Kang Hyun-moo, Lee Dong-gyeong, and Choi Young-jun all fluffed their lines from 12 yards. Hong Chul finally scored and Song Min-kyu's decisive spot-kick was saved, as Ulsan made it to the cup showpiece after a marathon shootout.           

Seongnam FC 0-2 Gwangju FC

Gwangju travelled to the Tancheon Sports Complex, knowing that a win would confirm their place in the top six. Willyan returned to the starting lineup for the visitors, having completed his two-match suspension after being sent off against Ulsan earlier this month. However, it was fellow Brazilian Felipe who had the first real effort of the match, when his header went wide in the 12th minute. Just a minute later, he slalomed his way past a couple of Seongnam challenges before slotting the ball past veteran goalkeeper Kim Young-kwang to give Gwangju the lead.

Felipe was proving to be a thorn in the Magpies defence, as he bulldozed his way into the box before teeing up his compatriot Willyan whose shot was blocked. The Magpies were providing very less going forward and Felipe again tested Kim with a low shot in the 67th minute. The home side had their first meaningful chance soon after but substitute Yang Dong-hyen failed to test the keeper when he was through on goal after a smooth passage of play. Another substitute Doo Hyun-seok made no mistake when he was played through on goal by a brilliant through ball by Willyan, and the 24-year-old doubled the Griffins' lead in the 74th minute. Seongnam had a flurry of chances in the closing stages, without any real test for Lee Jin-hyung in goal as Gwangju collected the three points they needed to guarantee a top-half finish on their return to the K League 1 this season.    

Previous Meetings

Pohang and Gwangju have faced each other on 19 occasions, with the Steelers having a near-flawless record winning 12 matches, drawing 6 and suffering just one defeat.

The last match between these two sides took place on 8th August at the Steel Yard. Teenage midfielder Go Young-joon came off the bench to rescue a point for Pohang when he struck a 90th-minute equaliser to cancel out Felipe's opener for Gwangju. However, earlier in the season Pohang did pick up a 2-0 win at the Gwangju World Cup Stadium courtesy of strikes from Manuel Palacios and Song Min-kyu.

Team News

The biggest team news in the Pohang camp is that top scorer Stanislav Iljutchenko will be available for selection again, having missed the last league encounter against Sangju Sangmu due to suspension. Lee Seung-mo, Shim Dong-woon and Nam Joon-jae could all be in the starting lineup, due to several regular starters involved in an energy-sapping contest against Ulsan in midweek.

As for Gwangju, Willyan returned from his two-match suspension last week and is expected to start again. Felipe also started after a minor strain, and will again lead the attack with Um Won-sang completing the trio. Manager Park Jin-sub is expected to name an unchanged lineup, with experienced Costa Rican striker Marco Urena still unable to claim a starting berth following his arrival earlier this year.    

The Adversary

Gwangju FC top scorer Felipe Silva

Gwangju FC won promotion to the K League 1 after winning the second division title in impressive fashion last season. It is fair to say that the Griffins have already had a successful campaign, managing to claim a top-half finish at the first time of asking.

The key to the team's success has been 28-year-old Brazilian, Felipe Silva. The lanky forward has netted 11 times and will be in buoyant mood having also scored last week. Young striker Um Won-sang has also caught the eye, with experienced midfielders Park Jeong-soo and Yeo Reum playing crucial roles in the middle of the park. 

What To Watch

Can the Pohang players pick themselves up and focus on the job in hand?

It was a cruel exit from the FA Cup for Pohang in midweek, after a memorable run this season. It was not the exit, but the manner of exit that will hurt the Steelers in particular. A shootout heartbreak that too against rivals Ulsan Hyundai. 

Securing a return back amongst Asia's elite is the dream for the Pohang faithful. After having a pretty good season and having done much of the hard work, the players will be looking to complete the objective they set out to achieve at the start of the season. Holding a seven-point lead over fellow AFC Champions League-chasing Daegu FC going into the final five matches of the season, it will be bitterly disappointing for the Steelers if the Sky Blues managed to overtake them in the final laps of the season. 

However, this match might just be too early for Pohang, as just after three days rest, they will have to focus and turn their attentions back on the league. It won't be easy for the Steelers and it will be intriguing to see if Kim Gi-dong can galvanize his boys for the start of the season's final stretch.     



Gwangju will have their work cut out against a formidable Pohang attack. However, Gwangju are themselves more than capable of finding the net, having managed to score thrice against Jeonbuk in a thrilling draw earlier this month. Due to Pohang's midweek cup exertions, this could be a tighter contest than expected but the Steelers should be able to pick up a narrow win.

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