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Seongnam FC 2-2 Seoul E-Land: Who are the more likely promotion contenders?

Seongnam FC came back from 2-0 down to rescue a point at home to Seoul E-Land with goals from Lee Joon-sang and Fernando Ruiz capping off a chaotic second half. Bruno Silva had given the Leopards a 2-0 lead with aggressive pressing forcing errors out of the Magpies but complacency in the second half allowed the Magpies back into this 2024 Hana Bank K League 2 Round 6 contest.
Seongnam FC, having only dropped down to K League 2 in 2022, and Seoul E-Land after a very productive winter transfer window, have been tipped by many to win promotion this season.

For the Leopards the season began perfectly, a 3-0 win away to Busan IPark with marquee signing Osmar opening the scoring just five minutes in. Another win followed in Round 2, this time at home to Suwon Bluewings. Seven points had Kim Do-kyun's team sitting in fifth but heading into the visit to Tancheon in Round 6, that victory remains Seoul E-Land's last in the league.

For Seongnam, though, the season has been tough going. The Magpies lost away to FC Anyang on the opening day, then at home to Ansan Greeners in Round 2. The 0-0 draw in Round 3 proved to be Lee Ki-hyung's last match in charge before resigning. 

Wins have come, though - first in the FA Cup with new recruit Leonardo Ruiz bagging a brace, and with Ikromjon Alibaev making his debut after an injury layoff, away to Pocheon; a first league win came shortly after against Gimpo FC. A mini-unbeaten run of four with three draws and one win has helped improve the complexion of the start to the season so far, and the comeback against Seoul E-Land will have felt like a win.

Both Seongnam and Seoul E-Land will have headed into this fixture looking to kick on but a draw wouldn't have represented that.

First Half

Two players in focus, Ikromjon Alibaev and Peter Marillos, both had important roles to play. Alibaev was playing as the advanced midfielder, centrally in a 4-3-3 whereas Makrillos was on the left of a three in a 4-3-3.

Alibaev's job was to get the ball forward quickly; Peter's was to be an option for the centre backs and full backs when Seoul E-Land looked to play out from the back. The former Chungbuk Cheongju midfielder was also directing traffic, offering guidance and instructions to his teammates as to where the ball could or should be played. 

His tidy passing and composure kept Seoul E-Land ticking but the Leopards had shown on a number of occasions in the first half that they were vulnerable on the counter.

In fact, Seongnam very nearly executed the perfect counterattack on 13 minutes with Gabriel picking the ball up in his own half after a Seoul corer, driving forward almost half the length of the pitch before ushering the ball out to Christy whose excellent first touch set him up for a right-footed shot. His effort kissed the outside of the post and went wide, though.

It seemed to sum up Seongnam's more direct approach.

Kim Do-kyun, clearly not happy with what he'd seen from his players so far, made a double substitution on 16 minutes. Ko Mu-yeol and Byeon Kyung-jun came on in place of Kim Geol and Lee Dong-ryul.

The first 20 minutes or so had been fairly even.

But then on 27 minutes, Bruno Silva went off script almost. Seoul E-Land had been tidy and composed up until this point but the Brazilian put pressure on the Seongnam back line with a touch of channelled aggression. After winning the ball back he had only one thing on his mind and that was to find the bottom corner, which he duly did with aplomb.

Seongnam then made a change on 32 minutes with Christy going off and Lee Joon-sang coming on. Christy didn't appear to be injured an went off the field unaided so it appeared to be a case of caretaker manager Choi Cheol-woo not liking what he'd seen so far.

Bruno Silva very nearly repeated the same trick on 39 minutes, not giving the Seongnam defender a single second to win the ball back and fashion himself a chance to shoot but his left-footed effort blazed wide.

The Brazilian had been Seoul E-Land's most dangerous player in the first half and his aggression, persistence, and work rate are things that perhaps this team has been missing in recent years.

Second Half

A chance for Gabriel in the first minute of the second half and a dangerous ball in from Lee Joon-sang shortly after showed that Seongnam were determined to get back on level terms quickly.

But, in the blink of an eye, Seoul E-Land were 2-0 up. Bruno Silva was alert to latch onto a poor throw-in from Yang Tae-yang, steal the ball away from Yu Seon and make a bee-line for the box. Another composed finish meant it was 2-0 to the visitors.

Just over 10 minutes into the second half Ruiz and Park Ji-won were brought on for Seongnam, some extra attacking impetus after what had been a largely flat performance so far.

Lee Joon-sang pulled a goal back with what ought to be seen as a goalkeeper error. The young winger fired in from the edge of the box but Moon Jeong-in allowed the ball to sneak through at the near post. Game on.

Seongnam pushed for an equaliser but, while there was a bit more endeavour about them, there appeared to be much in the way of a plan.

More attack-minded subs were made with Jung Won-jin and Shin Jae-won on for Park Kwang-il and Han Seok-jong.

Seongnam did, however, find an equaliser through Park Ji-won nodding the ball down to Ruiz nine minutes from time. The two substitutes combined to make it 2-2 for joy for the Magpies.

Seoul E-Land had gone 5-4-1 in order to protect their slender lead and Peter Makrillos had a half chance to make it 3-1 just moments before but suddenly Seongnam were in the ascendency with Kim Do-kyun needing to rethink how his side would approach the last five minutes.

Just a moment later Seongnam had nearly stolen it with Jung Won-jin skewing a shot from just outside the area a fraction wide after Seoul E-Land goalkeeper Moon Jeong-in had spilled a cross.

The last five minutes were like a basketball game with each team taking turns to attack, both looking for the three points. Seoul E-Land had a chance to reclaim the lead through Shin Se-gye but his shot was parried wide. Seongnam countered again more or less straight after, and so too Seoul E-Land before the referee blew for full time and the two sets of players slumped to the ground.


So what about Seongnam and Seoul E-Land as promotion contenders? Seoul E-Land were in control of this game, despite looking a bit open on the counter. Their best opportunities had come from winning the ball back high up the pitch, certainly entertaining to watch and very on brand as a Kim Do-kyun side. K League 2 appears to be just as open as ever so automatic promotion would not be beyond them but they'll be looking right the wrongs of that last 30 minutes or so in Seongnam..

Perhaps the kindest way to describe Seongnam, at least in this match, is that the team needs a new manager, and quickly before the season starts to run away from them. There was a bit more attacking impetus when Ruiz and Lee Joon-sang were brought on but, frankly, fans would have expected more from Lee Jeong-hyeob who did very little all afternoon. 

Starting Line-ups

Seongnam FC: 1 Yu Sang-hun, 4 Han Seok-jong (6 Jung Won-jin 77'), 5 Yu Seon, 66 Kim Ju-won (captain), 2 Park Kwang-il (17 Shin Jae-won 77'), 19 Yang Tae-yang, 10 Gabriel, 8 Alibaev, 11 Kim Jeong-hwan (47 Park Ji-won 58'), 99 Christy Manzinga (27 Lee Joon-sang 33'), 18 Lee Jeong-hyeob (9 Leonardo Ruiz 58')

Unused Substitutes: 21 Choi Pil-su, 23 Kim Gun-il 

Seoul E-Land: 23 Moon Jeong-in, 3 Kim Min-gyu, 4 Lee In-jae, 20 Kim Oh-kyu, 7 Peter Makrillos, 21 Park Min-seo (33 Shin Se-gye 74'), 17 Lee Dong-ryul (16 Byeon Kyung-jun 18'), 99 Kim Geol (95 Ko Mu-yeol 18'), 14 Kim Young-wook, 11 Park Jeong-in (30 Park Chang-hwan 59'), 29 Bruno Silva (8 Jeong Jae-yong 74')

Unused Substitutes: 13 Lee Ki-hyun, 6 Lee Sang-min

Attendance: 2,459

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