Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Damp Start To The K-League

Damp Start To The K-League.
Despite an exceptionally mild winter on the Korean peninsula, the media gloomily predicted that the K-League opening round of fixtures would be played under foul weather. According to the 14 coaches, it didn't matter as they promised that a new era of attractive football would at least brighten moods, if not skies.

It didn’t really turn out that way – though Chunnam Dragons’ pink away kit shone through the greyness. The Gwangyang-based team sported the shirts in the season curtain-raiser at Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. The match was the only Saturday game and gave champions Seongnam and the FA Cup holders a chance to get the ball rolling.

In truth, it wasn’t the best of games but matters livened up a little in the second half. Lively Chunnam striker Sandro Hiroshi had troubled the home defence all afternoon and his free-kick rebounded off the Seongnam wall to be hooked smartly home by the loitering Song Jong-hyun.

Seongnam fought back but it took the addition of substitute and $2 million new signing Choi Sung-kuk to make the difference. “Little Maradona” bamboozled sometime national team-mate Kim Jin-kyu and was brought down by the ex-Jubilo Iwata defender. Brazilian hotshot Mota made no mistake from the spot to earn a point for the champs.

The other six matches took place on a very wet and windy Sunday afternoon. The two biggest games of the day took place in Seoul and Suwon respectively. In the capital, it was supposed to be the start of a new era with new boss Senol Gunes. Turkey's 2002 World Cup coach taking the reins.

There wasn’t much excitement on display in Seoul World Cup Stadium for the visit of Daegu. Most of the fans seemed more concerned with sitting far back enough to escape the reach of the rain and those who had their view blocked by umbrellas missed little of note in the first period.

The second half was slightly better though it was always going to be a mistake that decided the game. It came just after half-time and a slip from a Daegu defender let in Lee Chung-yong and the 18 year-old slotted the ball home coolly. Soon after, substitute striker Jung Jo-gook fired home from 20 yards to seal the win for a sluggish Seoul side.

Ahn Jung-hwan was the big draw at Suwon Samsung Bluewings. The Lord of the Ring was making his first appearance in Asia’s oldest professional league since 2000 and seemed off the pace against Daejeon Citizen. The 31 year-old had little impact on the game and was withdrawn after 57 minutes, three minutes after Daejeon, a team that has a very good record against the three-time champions, took the lead.

Suwon fought back to equalize and then score the winner with four minutes remaining. Ahn Hyo-yeon headed home to ensure that at least one Ahn would make the headlines.

To the south-west, Asian champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors started in blistering fashion. New signing and Macedonia star striker Stevica Ristic needed only 50 seconds to get on the scoresheet at Gwangju Sangmu. 15 minutes later, 2006 Rookie of the Year Yeom Ki-hoon recorded his second assist of the day to set up Kim Hyeung-bom.

Lee Chun-soo was nowhere to be seen as Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I took the lead at home to Gyeongnam FC. Unfortunately for the 2005 champions, Everaldo De Jesus Pereira marked his K-League debut with a goal to earn a 1-1 draw for the visitors.

Incheon United could be in for a long season as they crashed to an opening-day home defeat at the hands of Pohang Steelers. Pohang boss Sergio Farias said earlier in the week that Koh Ki-goo was capable of replacing Lee Dong-gook. Few believed the Brazilian but Koh grabbed the only goal of the game on the west coast.

The other game saw Busan I’Park also lose at home – 1-0 to Jeju United.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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