Monday, December 4, 2006

Dragons Soar Above Bluewings In FA Cup

Chunnam somehow lift massive cupFA Cup finals conjure certain memories for Englishmen of a certain age. Brilliant May sunshine reflecting off a lush green Wembley pitch to blind 100,000 fans all cramped into a dump of a stadium.

It's slightly different in Korea. The cup itself needs four men to lift it, Seoul World Cup Stadium is infinitely better than the old Wembley dinosaur and, on an arctic December afternoon, there was nothing lush about the bone dry turf.

The temperatures didn’t plummet quite as low as last December but according to a gloomy group of journalists in the lift, we would be enjoying temperatures of –9 C by the time the game finished. Few wanted to think about the possibility of extra time and penalties.

Chunnam fans

Over in Doha for the Asian Games, Baek Ji-hoon and Cho Won-hee of Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Kim Young-kwang of Chunnam Dragons must have been laughing at their club-mates, probably as they lounged around the pool.

Well, perhaps Baek and Cho weren’t too happy as Suwon lost 2-0 to a determined and energetic Chunnam team who lifted the trophy for the second time.

Suwon down and out

It’s been a bad few days for the Bluewings. Just two weeks ago they were on course for the double ala Manchester United in 1995. Just as Sir Alex’s team lost the league to Blackburn on the Sunday and the cup to Everton the following Saturday, Suwon were denied the K-League championship final by Seongnam the previous weekend and were soon playing second fiddle to the Gwangyang outfit in the cup final.

From the beginning, Chunnam looked hungrier, more committed and determined. The yellow shirts and black shorts were buzzing all over the pitch.

Lee Woon-jae made a return to the Suwon team for the first time since returning from the World Cup. The 33 year-old may have been the captain of the Korean team but doesn’t enjoy the best of relationships with Cha Bum-keun. His recall for the final had the air of a farewell appearance about it.

There wasn’t much that Lee could do about the two goals. The first was scored by Song Jong-hyun but his low shot from outside the area took a nasty deflection off Mato Neretljak.

Chunnam celebrate opener

Suwon pushed forward in search of an equaliser but almost fell two behind after 75 minutes. Sandro Hiroshi’s point blank header at the far post was well-saved by Lee.

After failing to create a clear-cut opportunity for most of the game, Suwon missed two gilt-edged chances in the space of a minute.

There's always next season

In the 82nd minute, Shin Young-rok dragged the ball wide of the post when through on goal and just seconds later, fellow substitute Denis Laktionov headed wide from three yards out with the goal at his mercy.

The crowd sensed that Suwon’s hopes had gone and they were right as Chunnam soon sealed the win with a second goal.

With the Korean defence AWOL, Kim Tae-soo side-footed the ball home from close range and the celebrations started for Chunnam and the recriminations for Suwon.

Seoul Look For New Coach

Beijing-bound Lee Jang-soo

In one of the worst-kept secrets of the season, FC Seoul have decided not to renew the contract of coach Lee Jang-soo.

Lee joined the club at the end of 2004 and his solid his uncompromising style made the team hard to beat but Seoul rarely looked like potential champions.

The 50 year-old is set to return to China and where he enjoyed some success around the turn of the century. He will take over Beijing Guo’an.

His last game in charge was the recent championship play-off final defeat at the hands of Seongnam. Even if the team had won the title, the word on the street was that Lee was still done for.

The club will look outside Korea for a replacement.

“After Lee Jang-soo’s contract has expired, we have decided not to renew his contract. We have decided that the baton will be passed on to a foreign coach. We will try to find one quickly."

“This season we won the Hauzen Cup and reached the play-off semi-finals with good results. We have considered the problem of the coach’s contract renewal for a long time.

"However, we came to the conclusion that a change was necessary in order to reach the next level."

According to the media, former national team coach Humberto Coelho and ex-Turkey boss Senol Gunes are in line to take over.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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