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Two games, Eleven goals, One Suwon: But which one was better?

Double-headers are a rarity in K League 1. With Seoul E-Land's ongoing struggles in the second tier, Suwon is the only city with two teams in the top division of Korean football. The atmosphere is decent when they face off, but sometimes they host games on the same day - an opportunity you can't miss.

Exiting Suwon World Cup Stadium (aka Big Bird) from the north end of the ground, the route to Suwon Stadium is short and straightforward. The 3.5 km journey takes about 50 minutes by foot, mainly due to the hills that must be climbed and busy roads crossed. For a small stretch, the majestic gates and walls of the Hwaseong Fortress line the left side of the road. From the top of Gyeongsu dae-ro, the floodlights of Suwon Sports Complex are visible in the distance.

Only once in 2023 (April 15th) thus far, groundhoppers could have made this trek as a same-day Suwon doubleheader was scheduled. The possibility of a late-season version was realized when the K League released the fixtures for the final five rounds. With approximately 30 minutes between the end of one and the start of another, casual fans had a serious rush to get the entirety of both games in. As it turned out, skipping the end of the Bluewings game would have been a disaster.

Sunday, October 29th. 
Suwon Samsung Bluewings versus Daejeon Hana Citizen. Suwon World Cup Stadium. 14:00.
Suwon FC versus FC Seoul. Suwon Stadium. 16:30.

My media tickets were confirmed in the week leading up to the games. These two matches carry extra importance because Suwon FC (10th) and Suwon Bluewings (12th) are in genuine relegation danger. How often do two clubs from the same city go down? Suwon is the only city with a rivalry in K League 1. If things go really badly, Suwon will be the only city in the second division with a rivalry, too. As we discussed on K League United before, the Bluewings would be the biggest club in the country to suffer a relegation.

On the field, the matches went horribly wrong for the Suwon clubs. The Bluewings, bottom and therefore occupying the only automatic relegation spot, knew a win would take them above Gangwon FC and into the relative safety of 11th. It looked like they did the hard work; they led 2-0 at half-time, defended well, and had the Big Bird faithful dreaming of a great escape. However, two goals were conceded after the 80th-minute mark, with the equalizer arriving deep into added-on time.

Likewise, at Suwon Stadium, Suwon FC took a half-time lead into the changing rooms. Two goals in quick succession (Ki Sung-yueng's from inside his own half was ridiculous!), saw Seoul take the lead, but even they failed to see the game out in 90 minutes. Suwon tied the game for the final time in the 91st minute and then lost in the 92nd minute. Incredible.

A Halloween nightmare for the city of Suwon. 2 games, 2 winning positions lost, and 1 point from a possible six. There are only three games remaining. Suwon FC are now 7 points behind Jeju United meaning a relegation/promotion playoff draws ever clearer. Will their city rivals even make it that far? The Bluewings are still one point adrift at the bottom. Next week, they travel the 3.5 km to Castle Park. Suwon FC might not be able to guarantee their own safety, but they can end the Bluewings' chances of securing theirs.

Suwon World Cup Stadium
Suwon Samsung Bluewings 2-2 Daejeon Hana Citizen

Match recap: The Bluewings raced into a deserved two-goal lead before half-time. Kim Ju-chan, rumored with a move away, and Maxwell Acosty looked to have earned Yeom Ki-hun's embattled side a massive three points. Gangwon's late collapse at home to Jeju United the previous day handed the initiative to Suwon.

Up stepped Tiago. The Brazilian striker finished a brilliant team move for his 17th of the season with 10 minutes remaining. Tiago then assisted Japanese midfielder Masa's equalizer with a delicious header under immense pressure five minutes into stoppage time. There was still time for Daejeon to snatch all three points.

Match score: 9
Four goals, two in each half, and late, late drama. There was even a bit of niggle throughout the 90+ minutes. The only gripe was Daejeon's lackluster showing until Rodrigo Bassani missed a glorious chance on 78 minutes to make it three. However, within two minutes, Daejeon were back in it.

Stadium score: 9
As we've discussed on these pages before, Big Bird is a fantastic stadium. Relics from the 2002 World Cup can be found everywhere. The (empty) colored seats are a notable feature of the stadium and because this ground has no running track, and the upper tiers are closed, the atmosphere is better than at most grounds in Korea.

Fans: 10
A crowd of almost 12,000 with a sizeable away support created a lively atmosphere. All in all, this was a good occasion to introduce to a new K League fan. Stunning weather, a top-class stadium, plenty of noise, four goals, and a dramatic late comeback.

Suwon Stadium
Suwon FC 3-4 FC Seoul

Match recap: Crazy. Suwon would have been justifiably deflated after Jeju's 95th-minute equalizer 
all but confirmed their place in the lottery of a relegation/promotion playoff in December. However, they took the lead on 30 minutes and held on to the break. The second half was on another level.

Seoul tied the game at 56 minutes and took the lead three minutes later. Suwon responded through Lee Seung-woo but Seoul soon reclaimed the lead. In the 91st minute, Osmar was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul in the box, following a VAR check. Ricardo Lopes scored to make it 3-3. 60 seconds later, Seoul went down the other end of the field and won the game.

Match score: 10
Even after Seoul's eventual winner, Suwon had a good chance to steal a point. Seven goals, a VAR-awarded penalty kick, Ki's goal from inside his own half, and a bunch of goalkeeping errors. Seeing Jeonbuk Motors' legend Ricardo Lopes back among the goals was another highlight.

Stadium score: 6
It doesn't matter that Suwon Stadium is older and much smaller than Big Bird. The Pohang Steel Yard, for example, was the first football-specific stadium built in Korea and its capacity is under 20,000. Despite that, Pohang's home ground is almost universally adored. Suwon, though, is not Pohang. The running track isn't ideal, there's almost no roof cover and it isn't very nice looking.

Fans: 8
A crowd of 6,000 showed up for a game that didn't mean much to Seoul's season. Despite that, they created most of the noise and will undoubtedly be pleased with the comeback and whacky nature of the contest. For Suwon, it was difficult not to feel some sympathy for their small but boisterous support. They deserved a draw.

Conclusion: If you have the chance to do the doubleheader, take it. But if you can only make one, head to Big Bird. The Suwon FC game was more fun, but the Bluewings was a better experience.


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