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Match Recap: Suwon FC 5-2 Busan IPark, Relegation/Promotion decider

Suwon FC secured their status as a K League 1 club following an astonishing comeback against Busan IPark this afternoon. Trailing 2-1 from the first leg and 1-0 on the day, Kim Do-kyun's side produced a heroic recovery late on to trash Busan 5-2 after extra time.

Suwon FC 5-2 Busan IPark (aet)

Suwon FC were 12 minutes from dropping into K League 2 with their city rivals Suwon Bluewings but a remarkable late turnaround, inspired by Ricardo Lopes, saw them deservedly take the contest to extra time. From there, their superior bench made the difference, coasting home 5-2, to win 6-4 on aggregate.

My original math report became completely obsolete once the outstanding Kim Hyeon pulled a goal back for Suwon on 78 minutes. To that point, the major talking points were Busan ending their short spell in K League 2 and the aforementioned inevitable second-division meeting between the two Suwon clubs. 

Busan won't forget this failure for a long time. They needed 3 points from their final two games to secure automatic promotion from K League 2 but managed just one. That was followed by them blowing a 3-1 aggregate lead in the second leg. The gap between the top of K League 2 and the bottom of K League 1 is effectively non-existent, but Busan had two bites at this cherry. What a waste.

The teams

Suwon FC manager Kim Do-kyun made a raft of changes following Wednesday night's late, late defeat in Busan. Lee Yong came in at right back, allowing Park Cheol-woo to push further forward into midfield. Oh In-pyo and Yoon Bitgaram started in midfield with Lee Kwang-hyuk, Walterson Silva, and Kim Sun-min making way. 

Lee Seung-woo's second-half dismissal meant an automatic suspension for Suwon's number 10 and most popular player. 

Unsurprisingly, Busan manager Park Jin-sub kept his changes to a minimum, with only one personal alteration from Wednesday's victory. Forward Park Dong-jin moved to the bench and was replaced by former Bluewings man Min Sang-gi.

First half 

Given the game's significance, with the hosts needing to score to stay in the top flight, the opening fifteen minutes were end-to-end. Both teams had decent half-chances, without either goalkeeper being overly tested. The loudest roar came when the small but rowdy home support in the temporary west stand appealed in vain for a penalty kick.

We didn't have to wait long for the opening goal and what a peach it was. Busan broke three-on-three but languid striker Kim Chan appeared to have taken the sting out of the attack, choosing to hold up play instead of sprinting toward goal. However, his lay-off was timed to perfection allowing the unmarked Choi Jun to bury his effort away from goalkeeper Noh Dong-geun into the bottom left corner.

Oh In-pyo then created Suwon's best chance of the half, tearing in off the right flank after a slip in the Busan defense. His shot was powerful but comfortably saved by Koo Sang-min in the Busan goal. Busan began to sit deeper, protecting their 3-1 aggregate lead, and hoping to pick Suwon off on the break.

It is a risky ploy and fans in the main stand thought Kim Hyeon had equalised on 25 minutes when his rasping left-footed effort found the side netting from 20 yards. 

A characteristic of Suwon FC games all season has been indecision and errors in their backline. At one point, goalkeeper Noh Dong-geun sprinted from the edge of his box to meet a ball played over the back. His teammates stopped tracking back but Noh also backed out of making a challenge, much to the annoyance of the local support. Fortunately for Suwon, the passage of play came to naught. 

The pressure began to build as the half wore on with Suwon creating more chances. One such attack, on 40 minutes, resulted in the game's first yellow card but the resulting free-kick was overhit and harmlessly flew out for a goalkick. It was that sort of half for Suwon.

Three minutes into the added-on five, Suwon almost - and should have - scored. A free kick 25 yards out was parried straight into the path of Lachlan Jackson. The Australian looked like he was falling as he made contact and the big centre-back could only direct his right-footed effort into the side netting from six yards.

Second half

Ricardo Lopes was unleashed from the bench at half-time and he nearly made an immediate impact. Straight from kick-off, Suwon went on the attack. A scramble in the Busan penalty box gifted Lopes with an early opportunity, but his shot came back off the crossbar. Suwon's appeals for a penalty were waved away in the next phase but Busan had only momentarily ridden out the storm.

Four minutes later, Suwon hit the woodwork again. This time it was the experienced Yoon Bitgaram who found the foot of the post after an excellent build-up involving the other second-half substitute Lee Kwang-hyuk. Lopes then went agonizingly close but his shot was deflected wide when it looked certain to find the net.

The former Jeonbuk man then had a goal ruled out for offside. It took a minute for the PA and fans to realise but after a lengthy VAR check the decision stood and Busan could breathe another massive sigh of relief. This was becoming a far from an accomplished effort from Busan. However, with 30 minutes remaining, they still held a 3-1 aggregate lead. 

Suwon leveled the game with 12 minutes to play and it was no more than they deserved. Kim Hyun's volley crashed in off the crossbar to end a deeply frustrating spell for the home side after two VAR decisions went against them and a host of chances were not taken. Castle Park was rocking as Suwon continued to pour forward. It seemed only a matter of time before they completed the unlikely comeback.

And.....as expected, Busan didn't hold on. A shockingly poor second half received the outcome it deserved when Lee Young-jae caused mayhem inside Castle Park with a meandering run down the left flank and a brilliant finish through a forest of legs into the left corner. Suwon now led, and the tie was level on aggregate. 

Kim Hyun and Busan's Lamas both looked to have won a breathless encounter in added on time but after 180 minutes of football over two legs, nothing could separate the teams and we headed for extra time.

Extra Time

It was almost fitting that the man who opened the second half with the best chance should do so again in the extra time. Lopes was rolling back the years and he almost conjured up Suwon's third of the game but his shot from the edge of the box went just wide with the Koo Sang-min beaten in goals.

For Lopes and his teammates, they didn't have to wait long for that elusive third. It was his fellow substitute Lee Kwang-hyun who bagged it, and what a good goal it was too. There was nothing on when the former Pohang man received the ball near the right touchline. But he was allowed to travel into the box and then curled the ball home, away from Koo's desperate dive.

Suwon had watched Busan fail miserably to hold onto a lead, could they do better?

Jeong Jae-yong made sure of it with a fourth. Again Lopes was the provider and again it was no more than Suwon deserved. A spectacular turnaround was complete. Busan belatedly brought some passion to the contest with their second goal on 115 minutes (to make it 4-2 on the day and 5-4 on aggregate) but the main man, Ricardo Lopes, made sure of Suwon's survival with a 5th just two minutes later.

The scenes at full-time were wild. And then it began to sink in; Suwon FC are a K League 1 club, Busan IPark and Suwon Bluewings.....are not.

The fans

The unseasonably warm December temperatures meant fans of both clubs could wear jerseys to this 2pm start and not worry about getting sick. The red and white home shirts of the away team were much more visible pre-game in the car park and streets leading to the stadium. Behind the north goal, far from the pitch because of the running track, the Busan support laid out their iconic quartered PRIDE OF PUSAN and other banners. 

They could have been excused for dreaming of trips to Pohang, Jeonju, and Seoul as the game approached the 80th minute. Not so now.

For Suwon, however, pandemonium. "The best day of my life," says Lachlan Jackson.

Up next

Northing. This is the end of the line for both Suwon FC and Busan IPark in 2023.

Attendance: 6,987

Best player: Ricardo Lopes


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