▲ Jeju United players, left to right: Jobson Leandron Pereira De Oli (#19), Koo Ja Cheol (#7), and Bang Seung Hwan (#10). Photo courtesy Jeju United
Jeju United’s punishing July schedule came to an end July 25 with a pulsating 1-0 win over Suwon in Seogwipo. The result was sufficient to move the side into a play-off position in the top six of the league table. Despite now having gone five league games without defeat, the month also held some disappointment as the club was eliminated from both the FA and Peace Cups.
On July 15, United welcomed highflying Jeonbuk Hyundai to World Cup Stadium for their FA Cup quarter-final. Having already suffered a 5-0 home defeat at the hands of the side currently second in the K-League, Jeju was clearly nervous and was soon a goal down thanks to a Ha Dae-Sung strike.
Things went from bad to worse when Lee Hyun-Seung made it two with United appearing to be heading out of the cup without a whimper. Just when it appeared to be all over, suddenly the home side started to attack with more purpose and pulled a goal back on 65 minutes thanks to Gu Ja-Cheol before Oveira scored an unlikely equalizer. It was a valiant fight back from Jeju who forced the game into extra-time.
Unfortunately the team tired and appeared to lack the fitness levels necessary for 120 minutes of football. Jeonbuk’s superior players were able to take advantage of this as they finished the game 5-2 winners, clinching a place in the FA Cup semi finals.
Fanatical Jeju United fan Anna Montoya agreed that the side’s fitness levels were a key factor in the FA Cup defeat. “Jeju started and finished the game sluggishly,” she said. “They had a burst of energy after the first goal which raised their level of play enough to score the equalizer. The rain and humidity seemed to challenge their fitness level once we entered overtime.”
Jeju then had a mountain to climb if it was to qualify for the semi-finals of the Peace Cup (also known as the Korean League Cup). On July 22, the side entered the second leg of its quarter final against Ulsan needing a victory of two goals or more after having lost the first leg 1-0 in Seogwipo. Victory was always going to be difficult, but the club lost the game 4-1, going out of the cup 5-1 on aggregate.
United will now be concentrating solely on the K-League and has ended the month on an impressive run of form winning both of their final two league games in July. Jeju secured a shocking 1-0 win at third position Gwangju Sangmu and then beat Suwon at home by a similar score to secure a top six position. This will qualify Jeju for this year’s play-offs if they can hold on to it.
Hardcore Jeju United fan Robin Burgess was cautious yet optimistic about the club’s prospects.
“If we can keep getting results when not playing particularly well against opposition who create more than us (Busan springs to mind!) then we've definately got a chance at making the playoffs,” Burgess said. “But as it’s such a tight and unpredictable league it’s far from guaranteed. A few more people making attacking runs into the box, rather than round it, couldn’t hurt our chances either.”
One thing is for certain as Jeju enter the final half of the season: every match is going to be vital.
Jeju United’s August Fixtures 1st August: Gyeongnam Vs Jeju United 8:00pm 15th August: Jeju United Vs Daegu 7:00pm (Seogwipo) 22nd August: Ulsan Vs Jeju United 7:00pm 30th August: Jeju United Vs Seongnam 3:00pm (Jeju-si)
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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