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Match recap: Points shared in Tancheon heat

Seongnam FC deservedly took a point from Gyeongnam FC as they continue their mid-season improvement. For Gyeongnam, it is points dropped again in this increasingly unpredictable title race. 


Overview

Seongnam FC 1-1 Gyeongnam FC.

The prolific Brazilian Gleyson took his tally to 11 for the season but Gyeongnam became the latest K League 2 front-runner to lose their grip on top spot. Despite trailing at halftime, Gyeongnam had several chances to win the game but were denied by the heroics of Seongnam goalkeeper Choi Pil-soo.

Seongnam took a deserved lead into the break thanks to captain Jo Seong-uk's outstanding volley. The former Asian champions have endured a difficult campaign back in K League 2 but they're now unbeaten in four as they look to climb towards midtable and a belated play-off charge.

A draw was probably the right result, even if both teams feel they left three points behind.

The teams

Seongnam improved their forward options with the signing of Gabriel last week. He took his place on the bench. The Brazilian notched four goals in 18 appearances for Ansan Greeners and will probably enjoy life away from the basement of the league for the relative comfort of lower mid-table.

Gyeongnam gave a first start to Brazilian striker Leo, who joined the club on July 7th. He formed part of a potentially deadly front three with fellow Brazilians Gleyson and Castro. Won Ki-jong, with eight goals and two assists this season, made way for the new man.

First half

Seongnam started the brighter of the teams and nearly took an early lead when striker Jin Seong-uk smashed a shot straight at Gyeongnam's goalkeeper Ko Dong-min from a tight angle. Buoyed by last week's surprise victory in Busan, the home team settled quickly and looked the more likely to open the scoring.

And that they did.

The first goal, when it arrived, seemingly caught everyone by surprise, especially Gyeongnam goalkeeper Ko. A routine clearance was spectacularly volleyed home by defender Jo Sang-uk. Jo was 25 yards from goal and instead of allowing the ball to bounce, he smashed it first time into the bottom right-hand corner.

It was Jo's second goal of the campaign and he's unlikely to ever hit one as good as that again. Despite Seongnam's lowly position, they had taken the game to the leaders and thoroughly deserved the opener.

The hosts looked far more dangerous as the half wore out and looked to put further pressure on Ko by taking speculative, long-range efforts, perhaps inspired by the team's opening goal. Christy Manzinga, playing off the left, was dangerous when roaming into a more central position, but a second goal never arrived.

Second half

Once the smoke had dissipated and the magpie took its rightful place at the top of the North Terrace, the second half began with replacement forward Won Ji-jong bringing out a brilliant save from Seongnam's keeper Choi Pil-soo. Leo, who endured a difficult 45 minutes for his new club, was the man to make way for the prolific Won.

The visitors noticeably upped the tempo in the second half, finding joy down their right flank. And it was here that the equalizing goal came from. Gleyson is the wrong man to leave unmarked in the box, and his glancing header into the same corner as Jo's opener was no more than Gyeongnam deserved.

Gyeongnam looked the more likely to grab a second, and as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, they won a succession of corners. One such corner brought another superb reflex save from Choi. Lee Gang-hee's close-range header looked destined for the bottom corner but Choi's outstretched right hand somehow palmed the ball to safety.

The five minutes of added time were welcomed by the booming sound of military aircraft landing and taking off at the nearby airbase. Seongnam came close to snatching an unlikely winner in the dying minutes but a flurry of late chances didn't bring about the fairytale finish.

At the loud blast of the final whistle, players from both teams collapsed to the turf in exhaustion. The conditions were tough and managers and players admitted as much after the match.

Seongnam manager Lee Ki-hyeong addresses the media after the game.

The fans

Seongnam has been averaging just 2,087 fans per game in K League 2. That puts them below Chungnam Asan and the league's joint newest club, Chungbuk Cheongju. On the black walls behind the East Stand's red seats, Seongnam's list of honors is a reminder to the current Magpies of how far this once-great club has fallen. 

The supporters' club, in the temporary North Terrace, were loud and boisterous throughout and sang their version of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It", a chant heard up and down the country. The ominous black magpie hoovered above them for the entire game.

Gyeongnam FC is based in the port city of Changwon, 279 km south of Seongnam. Even for a table-topping team looking to end a four-year stay in the second tier, these distances are too much to make up on a school night. As a result, fewer than 30 were in attendance behind the south-end goals. 

From the blue and yellow seats, they rolled out their oversized banners and occasionally turned up the volume with their collection of club songs. It was striking how unengaged the man with the loudspeaker was. Possibly he was worn down by the unbelievable heat like the rest of us. 

Up next

Seongnam will look to keep their unbeaten run going with a trip to Cheonan, before welcoming Jeonnam Dragons to Tancheon. Two winnable games to close July that could see the 7-time champions back in the playoff picture.

Gyeongnam have dropped five points from their last two games, having won five straight. They welcome new leaders Gimcheon Sangmu and the improving Gimpo FC to their Changwon home. Two potentially season-defining games.

Attendance: 992

Best player: Choi Pil-soo


FNR

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