Sunday, December 7, 2008

Red-Hot Climax As Snow And Curtain Fall In Korea

Korean soccer news.
The South Korean season ended just as winter started. The weekend of the championship play-off final second leg dawned with temperatures in some parts of the peninsula approaching 20 below. The cities of Suwon and Seoul were not far behind.

As the snow fell in the second half of the second leg of he championship decider between Suwon Samsung Bluewings and FC Seoul on Sunday afternoon, few of the 41,000 fans present noticed –some were bare-chested and many short-sleeved.

The atmosphere was red-hot and the action on the pitch riveting as Suwon won 2-1 to take the final 3-2 on aggregate and the trophy for a fourth time. As the final whistle blew, the Seoul stars sank to their knees, Suwon’s hugged as if their lives depended on it and the man in charge of the PA pressed the button that piped out the inevitable opening strains of ‘we are the champions’.

It was a worthy win for Suwon, a team that spent the majority of the season in first place. Seoul have a talented and youthful team but don’t yet have Suwon’s savvy or swagger. That will come as the likes of Ki Sung-yung, Lee Chung-yung and Lee Sung-ryeol will get better, though a move to Europe is only a matter of time.

Suwon have been there and seen it but even among the club’s passionate fans, few would have experienced an atmosphere like the one conjured on a Sunday when the north, east and west sides were blue and the south red.

“I told the players that they are the real champions,” a jubilant Cha Bum-keun told reporters after the match.

“We struggled during the middle part of the season but because of the players, we came thrugh it to win the K-League as well as the League Cup. They have played hard all season and have won 25 games in all competitions and have scored lots of goals. I told them not to forget all they have done this season.”

They are not likely to forget the win or the fight they were given by their bitter rivals. Like the first leg in Seoul four days previously, there was little to choose between the two.

Edu, the bearded and talented Brazilian, shot the Bluewings into the lead after just 11 minutes. It has been a good season for the affable attacker and his shot from the edge of the area was always destined for the bottom corner.

Seoul equalized just 14 minutes later. Lee Chung-yung went to ground a little too easily under the challenge of international colleague Lee Woon-jae. The German referee pointed to the spot and Jung Jo-gook, known as the patriot, made it look easy.

The game was balanced on a knife-edge. The two finished the regular season occupying the top two spots in the league standings, had defeated the other once each and were exactly level in the final.

There was a sense that one more goal would win it and so it proved. For some reason Kim Chi-gon lunged into a tackle deep inside the penalty area, Edu was quite happy to fall over Kim’s leg to win a penalty.

Song Chong-guk may not be the star that he was in 2002 when he was named by many as South Korea’s best player of the World Cup but he was the toast of Suwon on Sunday night. His penalty was initially saved by Kim Ho-jun but Song reacted first to the loose ball to score what proved to be the winner.

As Seoul tried its best to restore parity, tempers between the two rival teams rose as the sands of second half time fell along with the snow.

“I would like to congratulate Suwon but after watching both games, we should have won. I am sorry for the club and the fans. If we had won, our young players would have gained lots of confidence,” Seoul boss Senol Gunes said after the match.

“In the first game, we lacked in the physical department but in the second leg our passing was off. We got some chances in the second half but weren’t able to finish.
The players tried their best and fought well. It was great to see so many Seoul fans in the stadium on a very cold day."

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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