Seoul World Cup Stadium
“This is like deja vu all over again”, said baseball legend Yogi Berra once upon a time. A quick glance at the top of the current K-league table certainly brings a host of memories flooding back for football fans around the nation.
Suwon Samsung Bluewings are in first place after winning four and drawing one of the five games so far. That single blemish came when Suwon faced old rivals Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma earlier in the season. Seongnam are now in second. The two Qiu Qiu Gyeonggi Province teams spent all of 2007 fighting at the top and are once again out on their own.
Last weekend certainly brought back some bad memories for FC Seoul. Watched by more than 44,000 fans in the capital, the club once again saw an early-season good start ended by Suwon. Last April, the 1-0 defeat inflicted by the Bluewings stopped the Seoul season dead in its tracks. It remains to be seen how the 2-0 defeat on Sunday affects Senol Gunes and his players.
Seoul and Suwon take the field
Those players were unlucky as they controlled much of the match against Suwon. Especially in the first half, a number of chances came Seoul’s way and they all went begging. Dejan Damjanovic, Jung Jo-gook, Park Chu-young and Lee Chung-yong all could have done better.
While Seoul’s superiority was real, it was also fragile. As poor as Suwon looked in the first half, the team, roared on by thousands of travelling fans, still carried an air of sleepy menace and a constant threat that Seoul would be made to pay for its profligacy. That is exactly what happened six minutes into the second half.
Young striker Shin Young-rok let fly from 25 meters more in hope than expectation and somehow Seoul goalkeeper Kim Ho-jun let the ball soar over him to send the massed ranks of Suwon supporters behind the net into raptures. Those fantastic fans were celebrating once again 11 minutes later as young Shin fired a low shot into the net from the edge of the area and it was as good as game over.
“This is a game that we really should have won, but the result was a defeat. We just didn’t take our chances” said Seoul coach Senol Gunes after the match. “It sounds like an excuse but I can’t blame my players as it was a good performance.”
His opposite number Cha Bum-keun couldn’t stop smiling.
“The first half was really tough for us but we recovered well. Our defence held firm so we there were opportunities for us in the second half.”
Suwon players celebrate with their fans
Not too far to the west, Incheon United was suffering the same fate as Seoul – a 2-0 home loss ending an unbeaten start to the season. Seongnam’s Brazilian duo of Mota and Dudu did the damage for the seven-time champions who are now on the coat-tails of the Bluewings.
Now Suwon and Seongnam have positioned themselves at the front of the pack, it remains to be seen if they break away in much the same fashion as 2007. It certainly is possible as the two teams look to be a level above their competitors.
Before the season started, it was expected that those competitors would include Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors but the 2006 Asian champions have had a shocking start. The signing of international striker Cho Jae-jin was supposed to push the Jeonju team into the upper echelons of the table but the team is in last with four defeats in five matches. The latest was a 3-0 home setback at the hands of a stylish Daegu FC. Champions Pohang Steelers are also struggling with just one win so far this season.
Suwon fans take their banners home
Perhaps it is at the bottom of the table where we will see some surprises in 2008 because at the top, it is the same old story.