So much has happened in this K-League season, some good and quite a lot fairly bad. It seems a long time since it all started back at the beginning of March. Champions FC Seoul and FA Cup holders Suwon Bluewings met in the capital in front of almost 50,000 fans. It wasn’t the best of games but it saw Suwon win 2-0. Whatever the result, the expectation was that both teams would have a good season
That could still happen, but if it does it will not have been the smooth ride that many expected. Both sets of fans wanted a challenge to finish first in the league. That is unlikely to happen and they will probably settle just for a place in the top six and a ticket to the end-of-season championship playoff series. This should happen as despite the inconsistent results, Seoul is in seventh, a place above Suwon with more than a third of the regular season remaining.
Seoul started the worse of the two and soon lost new coach Hwangbo Kwan. The former Japan-based boss replaced the departed title-winner Nelo Vingada. He never quite looked the part at his new club and the team often looked equally uncomfortable. Unusually for Korea, a number of fans turned against him fairly quickly and he resigned after a loss at Chunnam left Seoul near the bottom of the standings. Assistant Choi Yong-soo spent some of his playing career in Japan but hasn’t done a bad job at all since stepping into Hwangbo’s shoes on the sidelines. It was supposed to be a temporary appointment but it is looking increasingly like Choi may be here to stay. The team, which deservedly won the title in 2010, initially responded to the new man well ― though it isn’t reaching the heights of last season. Reasonable form has followed with 12 points have been collected in the last eight games ― decent but nothing amazing.
Seoul is over-reliant on the goals of Montenegrin marksman Dejan Damjanovic. He has scored 13 so far, exactly half of the team’s total.
“He is just a top-class striker,” said Choi after his two goals gave Seoul an impressive 201 win at the home of second-placed Pohang Steelers on Sunday. “He is consistent and always dangerous.”
Damjanovic was one of the team’s much-vaunted “fantastic four” before the start of the season, the quartet of foreign stars. They haven’t all clicked at the same time. Brazilian defender Adilson is still there at the back. Big signing of the winter Mauricio Molina has shown the form that helped Seongnam win the 2010 Asian Champions League but only in flashes. And talented midfielder Server Djeparov suddenly departed the land of the Morning Calm last week for a glimpse of the Saudi sunshine with Al Shabab. The money offered was too good for both player and club to refuse.
What both Suwon and Seoul have in reserve to keep fans excited in the Asian Champions League. Both have made it to the quarterfinals of the competition that takes place in September. Seoul has the tougher task facing 2004 and 2005 champion Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia. Suwon has to take on last year’s runner-up Zob Ahan of Iran.
There is still some way to go before thoughts can turn to a continental final. Suwon has been a streaky team for a few years now with a string of wins is followed by a string of losses. From mid-April, seven defeats in eight games had coach Yoon Sung-hyo under some pressure. Three victories followed and it looked as if Suwon with Brazilian striker Marcel finding his feet and the always impressive Yeom Ki-hoon playing well, had turned the corner.
By John Duerden (Contributing writer) (email@example.com