Thursday, May 17, 2007

Seoul Score, Seongnam Soar, Suwon Solid

Seoul Score, Seongnam Soar, Suwon Solid
After going for almost 700 minutes of K-League football without scoring, FC Seoul’s coach Senol Gunes would have tried anything to break the drought. It is unknown however if it was the Turk who booked the half-time entertainment for the game against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on May 12.

It could be a coincidence that the team scored shortly after the FC Seoul shirt-sporting saxophonist belted out ‘Dancing Queen’ though maybe not.

Almost two months and seven games since last hitting the back of the net, Lee Sang-yeop swept home a spilled shot from close range against the Asian Champions.

The Jeonbuk net rippled six minutes from the end and, as one would expect, it caused a great deal of excitement among the goal-starved fans and players. So much so that just 30 seconds later, the Asian Champions equalized.

The scoreline stayed 1-1 which sees Seoul slip to sixth, ten points behind unbeaten leaders Seongnam.

Seoul Score, Seongnam Soar, Suwon Solid.
The seven-time champions are relentless. Seongnam are unbeaten not only in this K-League season so far but for the last seven games of 2006. Three more points came on Sunday evening with a 2-1 win that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests against a struggling Busan I’Park team. The visitors’ late consolation was only the sixth goal that Seongnam ‘keeper Kim Yong-dae has conceded this season.

Just as solid these days, if not quite as dynamic in attack, are last-season’s runners-up, Suwon Samsung Bluewings. It is fortunate for the league that the Bluewings are managing to keep the yellow machine in sight at the top of the table.

Suwon’s defence is a miserly one, always giving the three-time champions a chance to collect three points. They have been doing without Ahn Jung-hwan who has played little part in recent games. The Lord of the Ring has been given more time by coach Cha Bum-keun to adapt to life back in the K-League but the striker may need more than time.

Cha has steered his team, not always smoothly but very effectively, into a winning run that now stretches to six games in both league and cup. Momentum is a powerful ally and it is something that currently resides in both Seongnam and Suwon.

If it is to be found anywhere else in the 14-team competition then it is in Gyeongnam FC. Three wins out of three in the league has sent the team into third.

It has been something of a surprise. The southerners only entered the league in 2006 and endured a predictably difficult first season. There was optimism that the second campaign would improve after coach Park Hang-seo managed to prise Popo from Busan I’Park but the team’s transformation is one of the stories of the season so far.

Popo helped Busan last season with 13 goals and seven assists and since the Brazilian joined Gyeongnam, he has been just as good – five goals and five assists from the first ten games.

Unlike at Busan, Popo has someone to play with. Coach Park pulled off a master stroke in picking up the hitherto unknown Brazilian striker Everaldo Cabore. The 27 year-old has taken to the K-league like few imports before him have as his place at the top of the scoring charts suggests.

Pohang Steelers are perhaps a little fortunate that the goal drought in the capital has been occupying much of the media in this Seoul-centric nation. Until a midweek win in the Hauzen Cup on May 16, the title hopefuls had gone 12 games without a win.

Like Seoul, Pohang had a good start with ten points from the opening four games to fall back on but the team currently stands in tenth – not what was expected from the team tipped to challenge for the title.

Veteran midfielder Kim Ki-dong is also surprised.

“It’s the first time to have this run of bad form in my professional life,” the 34 year-old said. "The atmosphere at Pohang at the moment is one of confusion. Even in the cafeteria it is hard to eat.”

K-League Standings:

1: Seongnam 24 2: Suwon 21 3: Gyeongnam 17 4: Ulsan 15 5: Jeonbuk 14 6: Seoul 14 7: Jeju 13 8: Daegu 12

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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