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Match Recap: Seoul E-Land 1-0 Jeonnam Dragons

Seoul E-Land scored a 91st-minute winner to defeat  Jeonnan Dragons in Mokdong on Wednesday. The results ended a dire few days for the play-off chasing Dragons and could spell the end of their K League 1 dream.


Seoul E-Land 1 - 0 Jeonnam Dragons

Seoul E-Land arrived here in 11th spot, one point behind Chungnam Asan FC, with eight wins and thirteen defeats from their 26 games. A playoff push looks beyond them but with more late victories like this, they can push towards mid-table and end their season on a high. 

August had been a difficult month for the Leopards, despite picking up a statement win over automatic promotion chasers Busan I-Park. Otherwise, they suffered defeats to Gyeongnam FC, Gimcheon Sangmu, and neighbors Bucheon FC. But they closed out the month with another three points in Mokdong.

Jeonnam Dragons threatened to ignite an unexpected play-off challenge in July when 13 goals in four games brought 8 points. Their form has been mixed since, winning every second game and the goals have dried up. Last weekend, they were well-beaten 3-1 in Anyang. This loss means they're closer to Seoul E-Land in 10th than Gimpo FC in 5th.

E-Land won this game in the first minute of added time. They previously had a goal ruled out for offside but both teams will feel like they left goals behind, even if much of the second half was a difficult spectacle to watch. The home fans were left frustrated with some tight refereeing decisions near the end, and that even spilled over into an unnecessary yellow card for Bruno.
But the three points are theirs, and up the table Mokdong's finest move.

The teams

Seoul E-Land handed a start in midfield to Kim Won-sik, his 200th league appearance in Korean football. Tsubasa partnered the 27-year-old in midfield. A back four of Lee Sang-min, Kim Su-an, Lee In-jae, and Seo Bo-min offered protection for goalkeeper Moon Jung-in. Further forward, the team comprised Lee Si-heon, Yoo Jeong-hwan, and Lee Dong-ryul. Park Jeong-in led the line.

Jeonnam Dragons went with goalkeeper An Jun-su behind a back four of Kim Soo-beom, Yoo Ji-ha, Ko Tae-won, and Bahar Asnawi. A midfield fie of Lee Hoo-kwan, Pllana, Lee Seok-hyun, Choi Seong-jin, and Noh Geun-woo looked to serve striker Ha Nam.

First half 

Attacking from right to left, Seoul E-Land played on the front foot immediately but the surface was incredibly slick after hours of rain in the build-up to the game. Both teams found balls skidding off the grass difficult to control but it made for some exciting slides across the pitch.

Jeonnam created the first real opportunity in the 16th minute. A corner from the left found Ha Nam unmarked inside the six-yard box but goalkeeper Mun Jung-in did brilliantly to get down low and parry the ball away. Before Ha could rifle home the rebound, Lee In-jae hacked the ball out for a corner.

Influential Japanese midfielder Tsubasa then collected the game's first yellow card mid-way through the half. Pllana broke through a tackle in front of this bench and was about to find some space down the right flank when Tsubasa struck out an arm and brought him down. The midfielder didn't protest his yellow card.

Pllana was then at the center of E-Land's first major opportunity. His left-footed cross was under hit and from the ensuing interception and lightning-quick breakaway, E-Land was about to take the lead before Pllana's vital intervention cut out a cross that would have led to a certain tap-in. Visiting goalkeeper An Jun-soo showed his appreciation with a thunderous high-five.

Throughout the half, E-Land had looked dangerous on the counter-attack and another intercepted Pllana cross led to more slick E-Land breaking. The home team worked captain Lee Sang-min into a great position but instead of picking out a teammate in the box, the captain chose to shoot from a tight angle. An made the flying save look good for YouTube but it was a routine dive.

At this point, I have come to feel cursed at these games. Two minutes were added at the end of another K League 2 scoreless half for me. 

Second half

Tsubasa was replaced at half-time, making way for Bruno. Jeonnam made two of their own. Lee Hoo-kwan and Seong-jin went out, and in came the dangerman Valdivia and Cho Ji-hun. Valdivia is easily the most recognizable player on the pitch; his impressive hair, energy, and quick footwork set him apart from the rest. He was electric at first but like many on the field, he faded until the frenetic final quarter.

The second half was remarkably uneventful until the 75th minute when Bruno's excellent chest down found Song Si-woo in the box. His shot hit the post but the rebound went in off a Jeonnam defender. On first viewing, the goal looked good but Song was marginally off-side when Bruno cushioned the ball to his path.

That near-miss woke up both teams and the 1,859 in attendance. Ronan, only recently sprung from the bench, was causing mayhem in the Dragon's rearguard but E-Land couldn't find an opener. At the other, Valdivia went close twice as the game finally began to break open. With time running out, it looked like the first goal would almost certainly be the winning goal. 

As extra time approached, Bruno picked up a yellow card after kicking the ball away twice in quick succession. It was noticeable how frustrated and irritated the home fans had been since the disallowed goal. With the fourth official announcing six added minutes, Pllana's glancing header was brilliantly saved by Moon in the E-Land goal. A save worthy of earning a point?

Not so, as it turned out, E-Land snatched the win deep into added time when substitute Cha Seung-hyeon collected a pass on the right side of the box. He took one touch to steady and expertly fired the ball away from An into the bottom right corner. So excited were some of the fans around me, one supporter (well-known!) even removed his shirt in celebration. That's what the K League does to ya!

Seoul E-Land could have added some gloss to the final score but the score ended 1-0. They probably deserved it in the end. For Jeonnam, they ended their mini tour of Seoul and Gyeonggi-do without a point. How significant will this be to their playoff hopes?

The fans

After 48 hours of persistent rain, fans of both clubs must have been thrilled when the rain subsided in time for kick-off and the grey skies were replaced by this incredible bright orange glow. Even the rainbow over the Han River appeared to have just one color. The E-Land fans were boisterous, as usual, and must have really enjoyed the three points after the endless injustices they seemed to experience in the last 15 minutes.

Jeonnam Dragons' supporters took their place in the West Stand, behind the goal they were defending in the first half and, unfortunately, a running track. No more than 50 were in attendance, seemingly all in Jeonnam's distinctive yellow shirt. Unlike most of the games at this level, they made very little noise. They became a little more involved in the second half.

Up next

Seoul E-Land will travel up the Han River for a meeting with Gimpo FC this Sunday, buoyed by the last-minute winner. Following that, basement dwellers Cheonan City FC are in town, a great opportunity to pick up another much-needed win in the 10th spot derby.

After back-to-back defeats in the Seoul Capital Area, Jeonnam Dragons must be thrilled to be heading back down to Honam and a Sunday night date with Seongnam FC. They're back on the road again, this time to Gyeongnam and Chungnam Asan, before ending September at home to Cheonan FC.

Attendance: 1,859

Best player: Pllana

We caught up with Seoul E-Land's Japanese midfield Tsubasa after the game for his thoughts


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