Friday, May 9, 2008

Full Steam Ahead For Slick Suwon

Suwon take on Ulsan

The 2008 K-League season so far has been all about Suwon Samsung Bluewings. The Gyeonggi giants started well and haven’t looked back. If they were to take a peek over their shoulders after eight games, they would see a chasing pack that was getting ever smaller.

Seven wins and one draw from eight games tell its own story. Only usual title rivals Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma have taken any points from the blue machine. Suwon are still to show they can play sustained high quality football and really dominate teams but they have amply demonstrated that they have the players capable of conjuring goals from nothing.

Suwon players get ready to warm down

Starting from the rock of defence and set piece menace Mato Neretljak and spreading throughout midfield and attack, there is a real goal threat in the Suwon team, one that has yet to score less than two goals in 2008. It is the forwards who have really impressed however. Seo Dong-hyun and Shin Young-rok have finally emerged from the shadows to show that they can score at the top level.

Shin Young-rok talks to the press

Suwon’s latest win came courtesy of a last-minute goal at the home of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in front of over 33,000 fans at Jeonju World Cup Stadium. It was a bitter blow for the hosts who are having a dreadful season. While few may be surprised at the Bluewings position at the top of the perch, nobody expected to see Jeonbuk at the bottom.

Shin Young-rok talksd to the press

The 2006 Asian Champions have never really performed well in the league in the past but 2008 was supposed to be different. Macedonian marksman Stevica Ristic scored for fun in 2007 and with the addition of national team star Cho Jae-jin, supported by the talented Chung Kyung-ho and Kim Hyeung-beom, goals were expected to flow.

Cho, who spent three prolific seasons in Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse, has managed to find the net on a few occasions but only one win has followed. Even with the top six teams progressing to the play-offs, that dotted line is advancing ever more into the distance.

Northern teams make up the top four with Seongnam, Seoul and Incheon following Suwon. Seoul look to be much more dangerous in attack but weaker at the back this season. Last weekend’s clash at Chunnam Dragons would never usually be one to get the pulses racing and it was goalless at half-time. The second half was thrilling with six goals and a whole host of chances missed. Seoul host Incheon in round nine.

After a slow start, champions Pohang Steelers are in fifth and looked impressive in round eight when condemning Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma to their first defeat of the season. Wing-backs Choi Hyo-jin and Park Won-jae were in especially good form. Both players could find themselves selected in the national team squad for May and June’s World Cup qualifiers.

Deagu is a city famous for apples and pretty girls but is fast becoming a place to see goals. While Incheon United striker Dzenan Radoncic helped himself to a hat-trick, the first player in the club’s history to do so, in the team's recent 4-2 win, there have been a good number of very good strikes from the home team, especially from Jang Nam–seok and Lee Keun-ho. Such attacking prowess has seen the team climb into the top half of the table, along with the less exciting Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I.

At the bottom, it is a familiar old story – almost. Perennial cellar-dwellars Gwangju Sangmu are enjoying the dizzy heights of mid-table, helped by the excellent form of Kim Myung-joong, and the military outfit is looking down with interest at the Busan I’Park, Jeju United and Daejeon Citizen –teams all struggling alone with Jeonbuk at the foot of the table.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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