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Gwangju eye third straight home win

 

Gwangju look for their third consecutive home victory as Pohang Steelers make their first visit to the Yellows new home in Hana 1Q K League one on Saturday. Anchored in mid-table with their season delicately poised, Peter Hampshire looks at the changes at the club in recent weeks.

Defeat at Seongnam


After two straight wins at home to Incheon United and Suwon FC propelled Gwangju temporarily into the top half, Gwangju's defensive frailties were laid bare at Tancheon on Saturday night as Fejsal Mulic twice stormed through the middle of Gwangju's back line before the referee brandished a second yellow card in his direction for a shirtless celebration. 

Gwangju failed to capitalise on playing 30 minutes with a man advantage, not troubling Kim Young-kwang's goal with enough purpose despite Felipe having a goal disallowed. Gwangju boasted higher xG, possession and passing accuracy but only mustered one shot on target. 

 Lee Hi-gyun's K1 breakthrough

Lee Hi-gyun celebrating his winner against Incheon
Lee Hi-gyun has pushed himself into the heart of Gwangju's midfield in recent games in the absence of the injured Lee Chan-dong. Naturally a winger, where he has previously played most of his games to date for the Yellows, Kim Ho-young's risk of putting the 22-year-old in the thick of the action has been rewarded with solid performances. Having shown promise in a K2 title-winning season in 2019, Lee was only given 87 minutes of playing time under Park Jin-sub last season. 

Lee netted Gwangju's dramatic late winger against Incheon in Round 7 (his first professional K League goal) and has benefited from a lack of depth in central midfield. The Seongnam game was only the second time Lee has completed 90 minutes in three seasons and 21 appearances for the club. Kim Ho-young is having to firefight slightly with regards to team selection, with wingers Kim Ju-gong, Isnairo Reis and Lee Hi-gyun all deployed in unfamiliar central roles this season. However, all three have put in commendable performances with Gwangju sitting in eighth just two points behind FC Seoul in fourth. 

Defensive Overhaul

The last three matches have seen Kim Ho-young wipe the tactics board clean and introduced a new pairing at centre back with Aleksandar Andrejević partnering former Suwon FC and Gangwon FC defender Lee Han-saim. Born down the road in Suncheon, Lee left Gwangju for Gyeongnam back in 2013 and returns to the city in contention with experienced centre backs Lee Han-do and Han Hee-hoon for two starting berths in Gwangju's 4-1-4-1 system that sees fellow new signing Kim Won-sik sit in front of a back four.
Another arrival from Suwon FC, Lee Ji-hun, seems to have made the right back spot his own this season while Lee Min-gi and Lee Eu-ddeum contend for minutes at left back once more. The pair have been switched early on in games this season on multiple occasions. Interestingly, Kim Ho-young used four of his five available subs in defeat to Seongnam to change defensively minded players, with a further defender Han Hee-hoon the only outfield player failing to see action. 

Probable line-up v Pohang

With Eom Won-sang and Lee Chan-dong still recovering from injuries, Kim Ho-young is expected to name a similar looking line-up for the visit of Pohang. If there were changes anywhere, I would suspect Kim may tinker again at centre back as Han Hee-hoon performed well in early season games. Gwangju have a dismal record against the Steelers, never beating them in 19 attempts. Last season produced some entertaining tussles between the two, most notably Pohang's 5-3 victory in September.

Gwangju took a much-changed line-up to the Gudeok in midweek to face Busan Transport Corporation in the FA Cup. Failing to make it through to Round 4, the Yellows lost a two-goal lead, conceding in stoppage time and eventually losing on penalties. Song Seung-min and Lee Eu-ddeum were the most familiar faces to feature, while Kim Bong-jin and Kim Hyo-gi got plenty of minutes. 

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