5 Things we learned from Round 6

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Five things we learned from Round 6

Winless Jeonnam

Yet again it would appear that the concept of attaining all three points in a game is alien to the poorer cousins in Jeolla Province. Leading 1-0 at home to Gwangju through a fantastic Orsic free-kick Jeonnam were only able to hold that lead for a total of 5 minutes before Hong Joon Ho squared things. They would then succumb to a strike from substitute Cho Ju Young with just over five minutes left. There was still time for the experienced figure of Stevo to miss a penalty as he squeezed his effort past the post although the penalty was a pretty harsh decision. They are still not bottom as that spot is currently occupied by Incheon but things are looking bleak for the POSCO boys.

Jeonnam launch a third kit
Jeonnam launch a third kit

A game lasts 90 mins when Incheon are in town

There’s an old saying in English football often coined by those soothsayers that are ex-pros which goes something like “a game lasts 90 minutes”. It’s up there with such  classics as “the best team won” that make you want to throw your new 43 inch TV out the window upon hearing it after your team throw away the lead. In Incheon United’s case though it does ring true. After coming from behind away to Champions Jeonbuk with a 91st minute Song Si Jong goal in Round 5 they repeated the feat again in Round 6, this time leveling the score at home to rivals Suwon Bluewings with Song again begin the last-minute hero. They might still occupy last place in the table but it could all by so much worse for them if it wasn’t for their ‘never say die’ attitude or perhaps it’s simply down to their opponents lack of concentration.

Seoul’s ‘ghostly’ support

The sit atop the table, their hero has returned, they boast a rather impressive ‘goals for’ record of more than 2 goals per game so obviously the Seoul World Cup Stadium is packed to the rafters every home game right? Well it would seem not! It would appear that the simple threat of rain is enough to send the Suhoshin scampering for cover in the local malls as only just over 13,000 turned out for what had all the potential to be another goalfest at Sangam. It may seem unfair to target Seoul as K-League attendances are poor across the board but in a city of 10M and with the team looking like they could score against any opposition it is yet another shocking crowd in a stadium that’s only really close to being ‘full’ if they have closed off a stand and sold their soul to the the evils of K-POP.

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Seongnam on the slide

It all started so well for Seongnam as they stormed to the top of the table with three wins out of four, which, coupled with Jeonbuk having a couple of unconvincing draws (including against cannon-fodder Incheon), resulted in renowned K-League talking head “48 Shades Mark” commenting that Seoul were Seongnam’s only realistic title-challenger.  A draw at home to Jeonnam in R5 didn’t do much to quell Mark’s ebullience as he boarded the bus to Jeonju for R6’s 2nd place show-down at the rather grandiosely named Jeonbuk Castle (although to be fair the concrete is crumbling like the masonry on a 1,000 year-old castle).  The game itself was pulsating as Jeonbuk twice took the lead before twice being pegged back only for Jeonbuk to snatch all three points at the death.  With a couple of tough fixtures coming up we’ll have to see if this is a temporary set-back or if they are on the slide towards the bottom half of the table.  Still at least he was able to console himself on the four hour bus journey back by looking forward to the next day’s Scottish Cup semi-final against a clearly inferior team….D’oh!!

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Again, daddy, again!

The ‘goals scored’ rule is working?

One of the big changes in the K-league this season was the move from goal difference to goals scored in determining the order of the league table.  Given that R6 didn’t have an obvious fifth talking point, 48 Shades has done some totally unscientific analysis of this years matches to date to determine whether the policy has worked.

2015 R1-6:

Goals Scored: 83 (2.3 goals per game)

0-0 Draws: 5 (14%)

Teams failing to score: 23 (32%)

2016 R1-6:

Goals Scored: 94 (2.6 goals per game)

0-0 Draws: 3 (8%)

Teams failing to score:  (24%)

Could it be that the K-league authorities have finally got something right?

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5 Things We Learned From Round 5

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Five things we learned from Round 5

Due to Election Day in Korea round 5 was upon us quicker than a Suwon Bluewings ACL campaign ends. We started the round with Seongnam sitting pretty at the top and a pointless Incheon rooted to the bottom of the table. Would all that change by full-time? Or would we see a round of ‘business as usual’?. There’s only one way to to find out…..

Jeonbuk Ain’t All That

Average in the league, unconvincing in the ACL it’s not been the swashbuckling, ‘sweep all aside’ start to 2016 that most were predicting but surely even a disappointing Jeonbuk would have too much for an Incheon side that already looks like they’ll be locking horns with Daejeon again next year. Much has been made of Choi Kang Hee’s rotation policy this season and it is definitely looking like this could be his downfall as for the second match on the bounce they lost a last gasp goal to slump to a draw. The fact it was at home to Incheon compounded the result all the more. You get the feeling that if he doesn’t find a settled eleven soon that it could all go ‘Pete Tong’ this season for the Champions.

Choi's rotation policy is out of control
Choi’s rotation policy is out of control

FC Seoul ‘Pay’ The Penalty

Last round we discussed ‘that’ penalty incident at Jeonnam when Seoul were awarded a rather ‘contentious’ decision, a decision which seems to have split podcasters and bloggers alike. In Round 5 Seoul would travel to Gwangju in the the hope of keeping the pressure on at the top of the table. Leading 1-0 after an early Park Chu Young goal they were gifted another penalty after a reckless challenge in the box by the Gwangju left-back, this time there was no dispute and the spot-kick was the correct decision. As Adriano stepped up and buried the ball in the net it was amazingly Seoul’s third penalty in three league matches. You could argue that the team that attacks the most has more chance of being brought down in the box….that or GS have invested in bigger brown envelopes this season.

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Without Kim Do Heon Seongnam look very ordinary

After the highs of Round 4 which saw a return to scoring form for Hwang Uijo during a well-deserved victory over Incheon United it was time for the only other ‘winless’ team in the league to visit Fortress Tancheon and surely face a defeat. Unfortunately nothing went to plan for the boys in black and the match finished 0-0. It was evident pretty quickly during proceedings that without their captain and main play-maker Seongnam fail to create enough chances to win a match. Sure Tiago and Uijo made runs into space and sure Pitu did a good job of plugging the gaps in the middle but without the guile of Kim it was a little too predictable and pedestrian.

The Captain is a huge loss for Seongnam
The Captain is a huge loss for Seongnam

Jeju are the Jekyll & Hyde of the K-League

With five matches played Jeju have managed two victories, two defeats and one draw to find themselves in 5th position in the table. This doesn’t sound like a hugely ridiculous start to a season and could be described as a tad erratic but the fact is they are two completely different teams home and away. On their home patch they are undefeated this season having notched up nine goals in three games and they look like they are capable of out-gunning any team that comes across the sea. Away from the Island though is where the problem lies, two matches played and two defeats is hardly the kind of record that is going to see them cement their status as a top six team.

Jeju Home and Away

The “People’s” Suwon are still on top!

They were going to be the cannon fodder of 2016, this year’s Daejeon or so we were led to believe as first Japa and then Sisi left for pastures new but so far it’s every non-Bluewings fan’s favourite team from the capital of Gyeonggi-do that is sitting furthest up the table. They are a stubborn bunch that’s for sure and their pressing style of play is winning them one or two plaudits as they refuse to sit back and take a defeat. Round 5 saw Belgium striker Ogunjimi grab another goal as he converted a penalty just on the cusp of half-time. They unfortunately couldn’t hold out and eventually conceded the equalizer with 20 mins to go but given the ‘big’ Suwonites inability to convert home advantage into points earlier in the day and again we see Suwon FC above Suwon Bluewings in the Classic. How much longer will it last? Well the first Suwon derby is only a few weeks away!!

Five Things we Learnt from R3

April promises to be a busy month with six rounds of the K-League Classic taking place and the first of these rounds contributed five new facts to add to the 2016 K-League Wiki…

1. Ban that Banner!
Anyone that has been to an FC Seoul game will be aware of Kim Yong-dae superfan and his succession of ever bigger KYD tribute banners. With KYD being shipped off to Ulsan over the winter, the most asked question in the Diablos forum was what new atrocity said KYD ajosshi would have to block our view with and in R3 we got our answer…Behold!
image1He swings it in a figure of eight regularly throughout the match completely obscuring our view…

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Diablo Bruce Banner’s view is blocked by KYD Ajosshi’s banner once again…

2. His Milkshake will bring all the boys to the yard…
Bluewings’ association with Maeil Dairies is the gift that keeps on giving. Hot on the heels of last week’s giant cow mascots is the news that the Man of the Match Award for this season will be 1,000 cartons of Maeil low fat and 2% calcium milk (500 of each?). Wunderkid Kwon Changhoon won the MotM award for R3 and when asked for his reaction said “It’ll be difficult to drink 1,000 cartons of milk by myself, I’ll have to think about what to do with them.” Sounds like a good competition for us to run, so answers on a postcard to the usual address!

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He’s really milking that!

3. Born Again Patriot
It’s now 4 in 3 games for the patriot to remain clear in the race for the golden boot. This week’s strike was very well taken as he hovered on the edge of the box and pounced on a half-hit clearance and slammed it into the net. The Patriot has really taken the Gwangju Phoenix mascot to heart in this renaissance.

4. Luck of the Irish!
All those years of singing Celtic chants has finally brought Seongnam the luck of the Irish as for the second week in a row they benefit from the lack of goal-line cameras in the K-League. This week Pohang had a clear goal disallowed and Seongnam won 1-0 to put them top of the tree.

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A close-up of the pitch at Tancheon!

5. Next stop Prawn Kimbap?
Where the UK is to the Dodgy burger van, so Korea is to pot noodles and dried squid…until now!  This past week, Ulsan had some foodtrucks at their game serving Turkish kebabs, Greek souvlaki and Mexican quesadillas.  Prawn sandwiches cannot be far behind!

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Don’t forget to crook your little finger!

Five Things we learnt from R2

K-League ClassicWeek two of the Kleague Classic threw up some food for thought for managers and fans alike.  Everyone is still hopeful for the new season and no one is really sure what the new normal is.  Worst of all, we’ve now got a week off for internationals before we get further clarification on certain things like just how big Jeonbuk’s contribution to the “Referee Benevolent Fund” will need to be, and just what supplement FC Seoul players have been taking to give them such a spring in their step.  Here we outline five facts that we learnt this week.

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1. Only good enough to play for Accrington Stanley 

Round 2 saw Suwon Bluewings make their home K-League bow, last year we had birthday cake hats this year we would be treated to some pre-match cows to mark their sponsorship with Maeil Milk. In the first half the Bluewings were udderly dominant with their players showing all the right moo-ves as they took a 2-0 lead by half-time.  As the game wound down it looked like it would be a lost cowse for Jeonnam to get something out of the game but up popped Orsic and Jugovic with two goals in the last ten minutes to leave them milking the Jeonnam supporters’ adulation and leaving Suwon Bluewings fans to ruminate on what cud have been.

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The Bluewings’ new mascots will need to be exchanged for magic beans if they want their team to climb the table!

Bluewings fans have been buying so much milk that youngsters growing up in Suwon these days should have no problem playing for one of the great Liverpool sides of the ’80s, unfortunately after several uninspiring performances in the League and ACL it seems the current batch of players are only good enough to play for Accrington Stanley.

 

2. Blurred Lines

Despite Korea being one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, its football pitches remain a bastion of luddisim.  In R2 of the Classic there were no less than three goal line incidents, two of which 48 Shades Tower reckons were ruled wrongly.

Incident 1 – Seoul v Sangju:  About fifteen minutes into the first half, Adriano receives a cross and shoots first time.  The ball crashes into the crossbar, bounces down and then is cleared by a defender.

SeoulReferee’s verdict: No goal

48 Shades verdict: No goal, tv replays show it to bounce on the line.

Incident 2 – Suwon v Seongnam:  Fifteen minutes into the second half, Tiago takes a corner which has a lot of spin and also catches the wind to drop under the crossbar by the near post.  The goalie dives back and claws it out.

SeongnamReferee’s verdict: Goal

48 Shades verdict: No goal, it’s hard to tell from the replay, but it doesn’t look like the whole of the ball would have crossed the line.

Incident 3 – Ulsan v Jeonbuk –   Twelve minutes into the second half Ulsan break down the left on the counter and a cross is whipped in and headed goalward by Han Sangwoon on the six yard line.  Kwon Sountae gets down and claws it out whereupon Han stands on the ball to completely mess up the rebound chance.

UlsanReferee’s verdict: No goal

48 Shades verdict:  Goal, looks like it crossed the line prior to Kwon batting it out.

3. They don’t like it up ’em!

One week on from easily dispatching Suwon Bluewings in Fortress Tancheon, Seongnam FC traveled down to Suwon to face the poorer cousins of Suwon FC. Much of the pre-match talk among the Seongnam masses was that after Round 1’s victory this one should be relatively straightforward, I guess the memo never reached the Suwon FC dressing room. Straight from kick-off each and every player in red and blue pushed, pressed and harried every one of their opponents, to say the tactic was effective would be an understatement. The more the game progressed the more the Seongnam players panicked as time after time they had their heels clipped or felt their rival breathing down their neck. It was the football equivalent of a Jack Russel terrier snarling at rather meek Rottweiler. Even after the players emerged for the second half surely having had the Hak Bum ‘hairdryer’ treatment they were still at a loss as to how to deal with things, resorting to long punts up the park to an ever-increasingly ineffective Hwang Uijo. The end result was a fair 1-1 draw, only time will tell if that is a point won or two points lost.

Suwon FC take man marking to a new level!!
Suwon FC take man marking to a new level!!

 

4. The WWF has elevated Suwon Bluewings fans’ conservation status from Vulnerable to Endangered.

Last week 48 Shades noted that opening week attendances were healthy and the trend continued this week except at the Big Bird.  Previously, perhaps slightly envious of their big crowds and vibrant atmosphere, fans of other teams had referred to the Big Bird as the Battery Farm.  Last year, the Bluewings lost their title as the the best-supported club as their average crowd was only third highest in the league and waggish fans noted that the Big Bird was much more free-range.

This year’s opening home league match attracted an attendance of only 13,794, the fifth highest out of the first twelve games this year.  This was roughly equivalent with their average attendance for 2015 but 20% down on their opening home fixture last year (against Pohang) and only 1,000 more than attended Suwon FC’s home opener the previous day.  Conservation experts state that if this decline continues, the Bluewing fan will be extinct within a few years.

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The Bluewings’ new mascot 도도

5.  The Case of the Missing Physical Coach

After Seoul destroyed Sangju 4-0 to dispel their slow-starter reputation, 48 Shades had prepared an insightful analysis of what has changed this year.  Our careful statistical analysis and in-depth interviews with the major protagonists lead us to the conclusion that newly appointed Australian physical coach Adam Waterson had been feeding the boys vegemite, lamingtons and kangaroo meat but when we went to the FC Seoul website to check his name, we found that he has morphed into Jasmin.

 

 

Five things we learnt from Round 1

K-League ClassicWeek one of the new school year is often a revision week of what was covered last year and, for the most part, so it proved during the opening round of K League Classic as we learnt that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Here we outline five facts that we (re)learnt this week.

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1. When the bats are away the footballs will play. 

Just like the opening round last year attendances were up across the K-League Classic with a whopping 32,000+ taking in Jeonbuk v Seoul and a ‘sold-out’ Tancheon soaking up Seongnam v Suwon Bluewings, but before anyone gets too carried away and we all rush to contact Fernando Torres’ agent to offer him the 100,000 a week he is looking for it should be noted that their was a distinct lack of baseball on offer last weekend. Not that we at 48 Shades are implying that the average Korean football fan is of the ‘fair-weather’ kind of course, merely that when it’s the only show in town we can almost fill a stadium. Of course an empty seat is probably still preferable to a phone-hugging rounders-watcher pretending to be interested in the game every time the crowd makes a noise.

Maybe dual fans can have their cake and eat it!
Maybe dual fans can have their cake and eat it!

 

2. Uli Stelike has the best eyesight in the land.

At 48 Shades we like to call a spade a spade and have at times flirted with controversy with our comments about one Mr. Stelike and his penchant for selecting anyone who plays outside of Korea so it was good to see him lapping up the atmosphere of Jeonnam v Suwon FC on Sunday although you could perhaps wonder who exactly he was ‘scouting’ in this one. He seemed to be a little vexed looking when the JTBC cameras darted to him during a lull in the 2nd half which may have been him trying to figure out what actual sport he was watching as it barely qualified as football such was the lack of apparent skill and passion being displayed on the pitch. Now the more cynical among us might try to claim that his attendance at this match was nothing more than a PR stunt with it being Suwon FC’s first game in the Classic and that he was in fact vexed as he couldn’t find coverage of the J2 on his cellphone.

Uli Stielike

3. Ulsan 2016 look more Ulsan 2015 than Ulsan 2013

Last year was one to forget for those of an Ulsan persuasion and it was with high expectations that they welcomed a new season and a fresh assault on the title. They must have been buoyed when the fixture list threw up a clash against Sangju (see post 5 for potential reasons for said clash being first ‘out of the hat’). It took roughly an hour for those expectations to be brought crashing down as they succumbed to a rather lackluster 2-0 defeat. Sure they were without the talismanic Wookie upfront but it really did look as if they had been briefed by the local kimbap vendor before kick-off. You do get the feeling that they could be in for another long and hard season if they can’t shore up defence, toughen up the midfield and actually find Lee Jeong Hyeop with a pass.

Ulsan's new strikeforce
Ulsan’s new strikeforce

4.  Seoul can’t escape their reputation as slow-starters

After two electrifying performances to open their ACL campaign in which they scored six goals away against the champions of Thailand and four goals at home against the Champions of Japan, Seoul’s fans were upbeat about their chances in R1 against Jeonbuk and travelled down in droves.  Although this was arguably their toughest fixture of the season they were bright enough for the first 20 minutes but ultimately key players like Adriano and Shin Jin-ho were a shade of their ACL selves.  Seoul huffed and puffed for 90 minutes but there was more lacking from the team than just white collars on the ACL strip.  The fact that they went out four days later and scored four goals away against China’s third placed team just left Seoul fans scratching their head about why they start each league season so poorly and hoping that the hangover won’t continue this week against Sangju.  Expect this item to become a meme in the coming weeks…

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Choi gives an inspirational HT team talk

5. Jeonbuk get a lot of soft decisions in their favour

You would think that being owned by the company that also owns the company that has been the league’s main sponsor for the past six years and has also sponsored the referees and whose chairman, Chung Mong-Joon, was chairman of the KFA and a vice-president of FIFA until he got a 6 year ban from all football activities for corruption would mean that you might benefit from a bit of favouritism on the pitch.  Unfortunately for Ulsan Hyundai, as we established just now, they are cack.  On the other hand, Jeonbuk Motors, which is owned by  his nephew and is a subsidiary of his elder brother’s company quite often seem to get the rub of the green. (Editor’s note: Groan!)

Whatever strange forces are at work, the 48 Shades boys have noted on numerous occasions that the ref seems to giving soft decisions to Jeonbuk and not much in favour of the opposition.  Anyway, if the opposition are Jeonbuk expect penalties and free-kicks galore every time the Wookie trips over his shoelaces and nothing for when Leonardo goes all Mutant Ninja Turtle on your best striker. They say that what goes around, comes around but that’s only true in this case if you transfer to another club and line up against Jeonbuk…

Jeonbuk launch a new joint venture to boost brandng
Jeonbuk launch a new joint venture to boost brandng