Incheon United v Jeonbuk Motors, Sunday 26th September 2010, 3pm

My friend Paul had been over here for a week or so and after hiking up Cheongwangbong in Jirisan earlier in the week we’d been doing a bit of sightseeing. Despite having been here for seven months now and having travelled all over the country, there are still lots of areas of Seoul that I’m not too familiar with. When you have a visitor staying though, it provides a little bit of motivation to get out and have a look at some of the tourist attractions.

There are a couple of famous markets, Dongdaemun and Namdaemun,  and we had a bit of a wander around those. You could pretty much buy anything you wanted in these places with whole streets devoted to single items such as power tools, broiled fish or ginseng roots in bottles.

One of the markets.

We didn’t bother with the power tools or the ginseng, but we did chance the broiled fish soup. Very nice it was too once you got the hang of removing the bones with chopsticks.

We also visited what was described as a folk museum, but there wasn’t much  music going on. It seemed to concentrate on preserving household items from the 1970’s which I quite like in a museum. After that we stumbled upon a recently refurbished gate that was quite impressive.

As good as new.

Seodaemun prison was next on our itinerary. I’m starting to wonder if the ’daemun’ suffix is Korean for tourist attraction. Probably not. I’m used to seeing signs over here pointing out some injustice or another perpetrated by the Japanese during one of their occupations, generally the destruction of a national treasure or two. The prison though was the real deal and a thought-provoking place, particularly the execution chamber.

Seodaemun prison.

With the sightseeing done and with my legs too sore from the Jirisan hike to do any more walking we turned our attention to watching a bit of sport. We had planned to go to the horse races on the Sunday, but it wasn’t on because of the Chuseok holiday, so that left the football. Paul is a Middlesbrough fan too, although a bit of a lapsed one these days, so what better than a game involving Middlesbrough’s most famous Korean ex-player, Lee Dong Gook? Actually he is our only Korean ex-player, but that’s beside the point. His team, Jeonbuk, were playing at Incheon whose stadium is only about an hour and a half away from my apartment and so that’s where we went.

The season is starting to draw to a close now with only a handful of games left before the play-offs. Jeonbuk should be able to remain in the play-off spots as Suwon’s recent resurgence seems to have fizzled out a bit, whilst Incheon are well adrift but have nothing to worry about as the K-League doesn’t have relegation.

It had been a bad week for Jeonbuk though, they had been knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by Saudi Arabian club Al Shabab. A one-nil away win for the Koreans being insufficient to overturn the two goal deficit from the first leg. Things were going better for Incheon though. A run of bad results that had seen them without a win in the league since May had been ended the previous week with a 4-1 away win at Daegu.

As we had arrived quite close to kickoff we got tickets for the East stand, which was the nearest to the subway. They were ten thousand won each, which seemed quite expensive compared to the four thousand won that it cost to go behind the goal. Still, it saved a three minute walk and with the state of my legs after the Jirisan hike it was well worth it.

The Munhak stadium had been quite badly damaged in the recent storms and a lot of the roof was missing. The upper tier in the East stand was closed, presumably because of the damage, so we found ourselves some seats in the back row of the lower tier, the only place where we wouldn’t have the sun in our eyes. There were a couple of hundred Incheon fans behind the goal to our right, but not much more than thirty or so travelling supporters from Jeonbuk at the other end. Perhaps the rest were still making their way back from Saudi Arabia. I reckon the total attendance was no more than a thousand, despite it being officially put at over six thousand.

Jeonbuk fans

The big shock of the day was that Lee Dong Gook wasn’t playing. Were they not aware that Paul had travelled six thousand miles to see him? And what about this blog? It’s supposed to be about the Lion King. There’s a limit to how long I can waffle on about silkworms, baseball and death by electric fan, you know.  Or perhaps not. Not only was Lee Dong Gook nowhere to be seen, but Eninho, Luiz Henrique and Krunoslav Lovrek were also missing, ‘rested’ after the trip to Saudi Arabia during the week.  It was hard to see where the goals were going to come from.

Jeonbuk, who were playing a 5-3-2 system for a change, started the better of the two teams and after twenty minutes their left wing back Kim Min Hak was fouled as he shaped to shoot. From where we were I thought the ball had just bobbled as he went to hit it, but the ref was a lot closer than us, possibly almost two hundred yards closer, so I won’t question the decision too much.

Kim Min Hak, a young lad who was making only his third appearance, got to take the penalty himself in the absence of the big guns and he put it away very confidently for 1-0.

1-0

Incheon were coming back into it more though as the game went on and their Bosnian- Herzegovinan striker, Samir Bekric, sidefooted a good opportunity past the post after half an hour. A few minutes later Lee Jun Young escaped the attentions of the covering defenders, megged Lee Kwang Hyun and then passed it though the legs of  Jeonbuk captain Kim Sang Sik for Yoo Byung Soo to tap home his 16th goal of the season for Incheon.

That was it for the first half and as we got ourselves a beer we had a look across to the adjacent SK Wyverns baseball stadium where some fans had already began to arrive. They had a game starting at five o’clock which, in a rare example of Korean fixture co-ordination, meant that we could pop into the baseball after the football match had finished.

The baseball stadium

I was quite pleased about that as the food is much better at the baseball than the football. Paul, having declined the dried squid, had got himself some gimbap. I decided to wait though until the SK Wyverns game and have some pork dumplings instead.

It’s probably worth reflecting on the fact that we were able to sit at our seats and drink a can of Max each. If we had done that in the UK it is almost certain that we would have been arrested, fined and banned from every ground in the country for three years. It seems a bit excessive for a couple of middle-aged blokes having a quiet beer.

Not long into the second half Yoo Byung Soo took his total to seventeen for the season when his shot took a wicked deflection to wrongfoot the Jeonbuk goalie. He didn’t seem too embarrassed though, choosing to celebrate by making that overhead heart-shaped sign that is surprisingly popular in Korea.

Incheon fans celebrating and hoping that it doesn't rain.

That second goal was the signal for Jeonbuk to abandon their wing back experiment and after a double substitution that brought two debutants on, they switched to 4-4-2.

The home team went further ahead on the hour as Lee Jun Young skinned Kim Min Hak and sent over a perfect cross that Kim Young Bin finished off not quite so perfectly with his shin for 3-1.

Jeonbuk pressed forward in the final stages, but they didn’t ever look convincing without their experienced strikers. They did pull one back though towards the end with a second penalty of the game when their final substitute Kim Hyung Bum claimed his first goal of the season.

3-2

I’ve seen Jeonbuk come back from the dead a few times this season and they almost salvaged a point in the final moments when one of the new lads broke clear but hit it over the bar. I’d have fully expected Eninho or Lovrek to have put that one away. It wasn’t to be though and we made our way out towards the baseball and the pork dumplings.

The defeat left Jeonbuk in the sixth and final play-off position, ten points behind leaders Jeju United but with a game in hand. Play-off rivals Suwon could only draw and are six points behind Jeonbuk in seventh place, but they have played two games more. I think the play-off spot is fairly safe for Jeonbuk, but they will need to improve a fair bit on their current form if they want to realise their ambitions of retaining their title.

2 Responses to “Incheon United v Jeonbuk Motors, Sunday 26th September 2010, 3pm”

  1. Cogstar Says:

    not being picky but……………..Sunday ’24th’ ?

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