As the saying goes, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” And as unfavorable as the standings may appear for Jeju United (presently sitting 29 points behind first place FC Seoul), they are certainly not showing any signs of throwing in the towel on their K-League Championship Round appearance.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, a sparse and subdued crowd of 4,767 soggy spectators saw Jeju United send Busan I’Park home drenched from the rain, and sporting a 2-1 loss compliments of the home team. Jeju’s win brought them to 51 points, and tied them with Busan for seventh place in the K-League’s Championship Round standings.
Jeju World Cup Stadium was void of the Orange’s M.C., cheerleaders, and the use of one of its two Jumbotron screens for the afternoon clash. The visitors’ normally boisterous travelling fans were minimal and quiet, and even the army troops in attendance sat covered up in their camo jackets rather than initiating their usual standing rhythmic clapping and chanting routine.
Despite the lack of fanfare, things started out well for the Orange. At only the seven-minute mark of the game, Jeju striker Renan put an uncontested free kick past Busan keeper Lee Beom Young from 36 feet out, giving United an early 1-0 lead. It was Renan’s first goal in his 10 games with Jeju United this season. He then proceeded to tuck the ball under his jersey and suck his thumb, in what appeared to be some sort of confusing pseudo pregnant-mother/baby-hybrid goal celebration. It was not a good omen for the remainder of his game’s performance. Renan continued to lead the charge of Jeju’s heavy offensive pressure in the first half, which also saw Santos Jr. ring a shot off the post 21 minutes in.
The conclusion of the first half was not as kind to Renan as its beginning was though, as a tough angled Busan shot from near the goal line bounced off Renan and into Jeju’s net, evening the score at 1. Renan was credited with an Own Goal on the play. He did not return to Jeju’s lineup for the second half.
As both teams returned to the field after halftime, tempers ran high — players took exception to a tackle at midfield, which resulted in verbal jarring and caused both benches to clear momentarily. Busan midfielder Matt McKay appeared to be at the center of controversy, as he was throughout the game.
McKay was often the perpetrator of fouls and blown down plays, and was frequently down on the turf during the match — usually under suspicious conditions. As bothersome as it was to watch the 171 cm, 65 kg McKay’s irritating brand of soccer on display, it appeared to skew Jeju’s focus and draw their agitation – perhaps a strategic move on Busan’s part as it allowed them to dominate the majority of the second frame. As Jeju’s offense sagged though, their defence stayed true, and was equal to all of Busan’s offensive threats.
Jeju began to press as the game approached its conclusion – Kang Soo Il’s shot at the 86 minute rippled off the side netting of Busan’s goal, duping many Jeju fans into thinking Kang had scored. Jeju fans would not be denied their satisfaction though, as Seo Dong-Hyeong scored his 12 goal of the season off a corner kick to put Jeju ahead 2-1 in injury time. The lead would stand, and Jeju picked up their first win in four games.
Jeju United face Gyeongnam at home for their next match on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. They then embark on a three-game road swing with stops in Pohang, Busan, and Seoul, before returning to Jeju World Cup Stadium to face Ulsan on Nov. 25 for their last home game of the year.
Dave Cunning is a freelance writer from Kelowna, BC, Canada. Read his blog http://davecunning.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter: @davecunning
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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