Jeonbuk Motors v Pohang Steelers, Saturday 4th September 2010, 7pm

This was another late change of plan. Originally I was going to travel to Cheonan to watch their third division game with Chuncheon. The appeal of that one wasn’t so much the football but the fact that despite it looking as if it was about forty miles away, I could get there on the subway. Some of the lines have been extended way beyond the city and I quite fancied the idea of a subway ride that lasted for a couple of hours and ended up a long way out of Seoul and in the middle of nowhere.

The weather forecast was pretty bad though as a typhoon had arrived and was ripping off roofs and uprooting trees. I always think roofs should be spelt rooves, like with hoof and hooves. Perhaps it is. Anyway, Cheonan don’t have roofs or rooves on their stands to rip off, mainly because they don’t really have much in the way of stands, and for that reason I thought it might not be a lot of fun in poor weather.

Jen suggested that we go to Chuncheon instead. There wasn’t any football but there was a chicken eating festival, some fireworks and a high wire display. Well, I like chicken and fireworks and a high wire show during a typhoon has to be worth watching. So that’s where we went. Almost. We’d been to see an American comedian called Ted Alexandro the night before. He was pretty good with a nice laid back delivery. He wasn’t mean about anyone he shouldn’t have been mean about and he made me laugh. However it was a late night, culminating in tequilla and that meant it was after lunch before we got to the bus station the next day. When we went to the ticket counter, so many people were keen to see tightrope walking chickens letting off rockets that there wasn’t an available seat on a bus for nearly four hours.

Hmm, what to do? Jeonbuk had a game that evening and so we got a bus to Jeonju instead. At least we would have if there had been one. We ended up travelling to Iksan and then taking a half hour connection to Jeonju from there instead. Both of those buses went on time and so we got there about half past four.  We found a hotel which was very nice but a bit dull, with none of the little idiosyncrasies that I’ve come to expect from the Korean Love Motels. It did have ’his and hers’ computer terminals side by side in the room however, perfect for Korean couples on an illicit tryst to update their Facebook status with something like ’Kim Sang Mi is working late with Lee Chang Jae’.   I suppose the most notable feature of the place was that check-in wasn’t until 9pm and so with our tea time arrival we had to pay the afternoon quickie rate in addition to the overnight cost.

We took a taxi to the World-uh Cup Stadium and bought tickets for behind the goal with the Jeonbuk fans. It was the usual formation for the home team with a couple of defensive midfielders and three more attacking players supporting lone striker Lee Dong Gook.

Jeonbuk, in green, had the best of the early play against Pohang, who were wearing a Dennis The Menace style kit. Lee Dong Gook shot just past the post in the opening minutes after a good burst into the box from wide. A lot of the pitch had been relaid after the criticism of the surface for the recent League Cup Final here. Both penalty areas and most of the centre of the pitch was new and it looked to be a lot more solid than the replacement turf that I’d seen midweek at Seongnam.

Brazilian midfielder Luiz Henrique was still missing but his fellow countryman Eninho was having a great game. He fired over the bar from distance after about twenty minutes and then broke into the box and forced a good save from the keeper, getting his shot off despite the chasing defender being all over him. If he had gone down he might very well have got a penalty.

A couple of minutes later he should definitely have got a penalty as he cut in from the right. He was fouled outside of the box and the ref played the advantage only for him to be brought down a couple of yards inside the penalty area. The ref bottled it though and to the fury of the Jeonbuk players gave a free kick for the original offence.

Pohang suffered a bit of a setback after half an hour as Kim Hyung Il was sent off for hacking at Jeonbuk’s Kim Hyung Bum. It was one of those fouls that fell somewhere between a yellow and a red. As he had already been booked the ref was spared that difficult decision and settled for giving him a second yellow that he couldnt complain about.

When Lee Dong Gook put one over the bar after a bit of Vidukaesque juggling with his back to goal it looked as if it would be scoreless at half time. A minute before the interval though, Eninho twisted his way past a defender and was pulled down. It didn’t look a lot more blatant than the previous two appeals, but cumulatively the three together meant that the ref wasn’t going to look the other way again. The Brazilian took it himself and drove the ball home high to the keeper’s left to give Jeonbuk the lead at the break.

At half time Jen happened to mention that when she had lived in Jeonju ten years ago she used to go and watch Jeonbuk. They played at a different stadium in those pre-World Cup days and wore different colours. Mind you, in a rare case of continuity they’ve had their current name since 1994, which is a long time by K-League standards.

As a little half time interlude I’m going to tell you about fan death. Not supporters being struck by typhoon dislodged roofs or rooves, but the Korean belief that if you go to sleep in a room with an electric fan turned on and you don’t have adequate ventilation, then you are in serious danger of not waking up.

They have a few explanations as to why this happens, ranging from the fan using all the oxygen itself, to the fan creating a vortex where no oxygen exists, to hypothermia and even the fan chopping up the oxygen molecules. Fans in Korea are sold with a timer on them and come with instructions recommending its use just in case you accidentally fall asleep with the fan on.

I’m not one to live dangerously, so if I’m using my fan rather than the air conditioning, I tend to leave a window open. Not too far, just enough for a psychopathic axe murderer to force his way in whilst I’m asleep. And that’s enough Korean culture for the time being, the teams are on their way back out.

Mind you, it looked as if Jeonbuk had been sat with the electric fan on in the dressing room during half time as they didn’t look too lively at the restart and a cross from the right was  easily converted by Jung Hong Jeon for the equaliser. This warranted a change of tactics from the home team and the Croatian Krunoslav Lovrek was brought on to partner Lee Dong Gook up front. It worked pretty quickly too, with the Lion King running onto a through ball on the hour and calmly finishing for Jeonbuk to regain the lead.

It got better for Jeonbuk a few minutes later when Eninho got his second of the game after some nice build up play. That should really have been it, but Jeonbuk never really looked comfortable. They had Choi Chul Soon sent off with quarter of an hour to go and that gave Pohang a bit of encouragement. The visitors pulled a goal back in the last ten minutes through Lee Jin Ho and then in the closing stages Kim Min Sik made a very good save to deny Pohang an equaliser.

There was a nice touch at the final whistle when one of the Pohang players, Shin Kwang Hoon came down to the Jeonbuk end to bow to the supporters. He had recently returned to Pohang after a couple of years on loan with Jeonbuk and he got a warm reception.

The win kept Jeonbuk firmly in a play-off spot and just  three points behind leaders Jeju United with nine games remaining.

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