The story of the season is still FC Seoul. The defending champions went seven games without a win, then grabbed two successive victories, qualified for the second round of the Asian Champions League at a canter and then lost to ten-man Jeonbuk Motors.
It is more bad than good. The success in Asia came in a group that was underwhelming. The two victories came against Daegu and Gangwon at home -these are two teams that occupy the bottom spots of the league and have yet to win a game between them. Seoul have collected just one point on the road this season. The title is still not out of the question but there is now no room for error.
So what’s changed since last season? Well, nothing really and that’s the problem. The team, is pretty much the same, the coach is the same and the tactics are the same. What has changed has been the form of goalkeeper Kim Yong-dae, who has made some real clangers, and the defence which has struggled against anything mildly physical. And when you have the rest of league knowing that if you can stop the ‘Demolition Duo’, Dejan Damjanovic and Mauricio Molina, then you can get a good result.
Pohang Steelers are going well at the top despite a small squad and no foreign players to have a touch of flair to the line-up. Despite a lack of prolific strikers, the Steelers are three points clear at the top as they are well-organised and have a classy midfield with the likes of rising star Lee Myung-joo and the two Hwangs – Ji-soo and Jin-sung.
Jeju United are going solidly, not pulling up trees but slowly keeping the points total ticking over. Hamstrung by a number of injuries at the start of the season, the islanders are slowly building a decent squad. Their starting eleven does not yet have the quality of some of their rivals but nobody relishes a trip to the picturesque Jeju World Cup Stadium.
After a poor start to the season, Seongnam recovered in dramatic fashion by picking up successive wins against champions FC Seoul, Asian Champions Ulsan and 2012 runners-up Jeonbuk. Kim Dong-seob produced some mesmerising football in attack to score four goals and give fans of the Yellows hope for the season.
At The Bottom
It is common to see Daegu near the bottom although last season was an exception. That was under the stewardship of Moacir Pereria whose first season ended with a tenth place finish. Deagu may regret letting the Brazilian go, saying that he and coaching staff were too expensive. After eight games without a win, Baek Jong-chul replaced Dang Seong-jeung. Daegu have collected just a single point in the two games since but have at least stemmed the flood of goals that were leaking out of defence.
Seoul are only five points above the drop zone while Gyeongnam are only four. The Changwon team have lost just twice but have won only once. Lacking ruthlessness in front of goal, Gyeongnam need to start picking up points or a surprise relegation fight is on the cards.
Mixed bag in Asia
As mentioned above, Seoul strolled through their group to finish first and book a second round clash with Beijing Gouan. Jeonbuk Motors were not quite as smooth but collected a point at Guangzhou Evergrande to finish second behind the Chinese champions and will face Kashiwa Reysol of Japan.
Pohang missed out and were left to regret their decision to send a full reserve team to Bunyodkor in the second match though the Steelers don’t really have the squad to compete at home and abroad. But Suwon were truly poor.
The Bluewings failed to win a single game and only scored in two. The nadir was a 6-2 defeat at home to Kashiwa. Suwon were awarded no less than four penalties and proceeded to miss three of them. Interestingly, or painfully if you are a fan, within seconds of all four spot kicks being taken, the Japanese team went down the other end and scored. A master-class of attacking or defending, it was not.