Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Play-Off, Kick-Off, Send-Off

Daejeon fans
Just as the weather was turning cold in South Korea, the action on the pitch got hot as the play-off series kicked off. Some of the fans kicked off too. Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I goalkeeper Kim Young-kwang got involved with Daejeon Citizen supporters.

Anybody who has been to a few K-League games will be familiar with the scene. Fans disapprove of a refereeing decision and vent by throwing plastic water bottles on the pitch. Cue the arrival of their team’s players to appeal for calm while everyone else waits the five minutes or so that it usually takes for the game to restart.

After you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all but Sunday was a little different. Daejeon fans are some of the best in Korea but can get a little carried away. With ten minutes or so remaining of the play-off match, the Citizen were two goals down and facing an end to their season.

Time was running out as Daejeon attacked. A player went down, fans called for a penalty but the referee gave a free-kick just outside the box. The purple hordes behind the goal made their feelings known and one missile hit Ulsan’s goalkeeper. Ulsan's World Cup Stadium witnessed Rivaldo's theatrics against Turkey at the 2002 competition, but Kim stood his ground. Not only that but the ex-Chunnam star threw one of the offending articles back from whence it came.

The ripple that the object caused as it fell in the sea of away fans was immediate and obvious, Dozens of supporters charged down to the front of the enclosure. And more bottles came Kim’s way. Perhaps realizing his earlier mistake, Kim caught one and drank its contents while his team-mates dragged him out of harm’s way. Daejeon players, perhaps accustomed to the ritual, adeptly dodged the missiles and gestured for the fans to cut it out.

When order was eventually restored, the referee gestured for Kim to leave the pitch. It took some time for the goalkeeper, by now in tears, to be persuaded to head down the tunnel.

Waiting for the restart as Kim gets sent off

With the man advantage, Daejeon continued to attack and went close on a number of occasions, attempts that usually ended with the mercurial Ko Jong-soo standing with hands-on-hips while glaring at a team-mate who had failed to convert one of his crosses or set pieces.

Ulsan warm-up

Two headers from two players given too much space in the box sealed the win for Ulsan who host Pohang Steelers in the next stage of the play-off series next week. The Steelers had been involved in some drama the previous evening during their win at Gyeongnam FC but it was of the artificial kind as they triumphed in a penalty shootout.

Pohang family

It was a disappointing night all around for Gyeongnam. The southerners had impressed when finishing fourth during the regular season but never really got going against Pohang. Their performance wasn’t helped by the fact that the stadium was largely empty. It was a cold night but free entry and the biggest game of the club’s short history should have seen more bums on seats.

It could be the last time that they see Cabore in the red and white. The Brazilian found the target a total of 17 times during the season and is now being chased by Suwon. With his team a goal down and three minutes from the final whistle, he produced the goods once again with a close range header to take the game into extra time.

Pohang fans

The hosts went close in the next 30 minutes but were unable to avoid the dreaded penalty shootout. Guess who missed for Gyeongnam? It can be a cruel game.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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