Daejeon Citizen registered their first victory and first points of the season yesterday away to military side Sangju Sangmu. It brought to an end a six game winless start to the season and ended a ten year jinx, the Citizen having previously fail to ever get a point away to Sangju. After seeing an improvement in performances over recent weeks, and deserving a point in the game against Busan, Daejeon were rewarded with their opening victory of the campaign.
Despite losing last week, the system Yoo employed against Busan would have been seen as a success, so not much deviation was expected before the match. When in possession Chung would step forward and offer himself as the spare man in the centre of the field, with Leo and Kim pushing up high on the wings. Sangju tended to fall back into a flat 4-4-2. They didn’t see the need to drag their second attacker back as Daejeon were only looking to counter, and then only usually with three men.
What was impressive was Daejeon’s work rate and discipline when Sangju had the ball. Immediately the midfield would retreat to the halfway line and allow Sangju possession, but denying them room in the Daejeon half. Chung would switch between joining the midfield or defence, depending on where the danger was. Sangju’s full back would try and play as high as possible, allowing the wingers to push on and almost form a front four at times, whilst trying to stretch the Daejeon defence as wide as possible.
There was four changes to the side, the most notable being Club Captain Lee’s not being included in the squad. His absence from the bench suggests he must have picked up an injury. In his place came 5, Kim. Kim has been one of the best performers so far this season and it was great to see him back in the side. His passing and composure are valuable assets, as he would demonstrate in the game. Number 22, Kim, came in on the left wing for Jin. Kim is currently on loan from Jeonbuk Motors after a rather long injury hit period but has previously shown he has the quality to succeed in the K-league. Following on from last week’s strange but successful deployment of Chung, a striker playing almost as a spare defender, Yoo this week fielded 30. Han, another attacker, was at right back.
The game started rather slowly, with Daejeon focusing on ensuring Sangju didn’t get off to a quick start. Sangju dominated possession but never managed to penetrate the banks of purple shirts and often booted long and hopeful balls into a sea of defensive bodies. The return of Baba last week saw an improvement in the shape of midfield after the nightmare against Jeju and this was on display again. Chung used his experience well in judging when to join the defence or when to offer as an extra body in midfield.
In the above picture, 5. Kim chooses to play long as 22. Kim breaks towards the Sangju defence, at the same time Chung has dropped deep and a central midfielder offers short. This was a huge improvement from early on in the season when balls were just constantly pumped towards Kevin, who cut an isolated figure against opposition defenders.
The first piece of action came in the 10th minute when, through good work down the left, Leo managed to win a corner. 22. Kim took the corner and showed why he has a reputation as an excellent set piece taker. It flashed across the box and fell perfectly for 13. Kim to head home. There was no chance of the keeper coming to collect the cross and Daejeon took the lead.
From then the game continued much as it was, with Daejeon keeping a well disciplined shape and Sangju passing across the back until they eventually attempted to hit long balls over the lines of Daejeon defenders.
It wasn’t until the 42nd minute that there was any serious of action of note. It came from another corner which was won from the situation described above, with Chung dropping deep whilst a central defender had the ball, allowing the wingers to break quickly.
The Purples were much better at getting support forward and the long pass towards 22 earlier than they had in previous games. Kim breaking away on the wing earnt the corner that resulted in the second goal. 22. Kim once again delivered the corner, this time to the edge of the box, where Baba struck a sweet volley, which took a deflection on its way to goal.
As half time approached Sangju were piling men forward and in the 45th minute had a corner. From this set piece a Daejeon defender managed to head the ball clear from the line, ensuring Daejeon took a 2 goal advantage into halftime. This was a huge moment as confidence is clearly still fragile amongst the team, and maintaining their lead until the break was an important step.
There were no clear tactical changes at half time and Daejeon attempted to stick to their game of frustrating any Sangju advances and breaking quickly. However, as the game wore on tiredness and poor shape began to creep in. In the 52nd minute Sangju managed to pull a goal back. After a corner was cleared Sangju had time to control the ball, play a short pass, and enough space to look up and pick a target. The cross was nodded down and volleyed home.
Up to that point Daejeon had pressed well in their own half but they switched off for one moment and were punished. The failure to press and the slow speed at which the defence got out of the box meant the cross was accurate and able to be delivered right onto the edge of the six yard box.
Daejeon, understandably, began to look a little nervous. In the first half there had been one instance of failing to communicate at the back, when in the 14th minute a defender headed a ball out of his keeper’s hands. This miscommunication began to creep in, and Sangju began to exploit a poor offside trap.
When balls were played forward early rather than passed across the back by Sangju, Daejeon were often caught napping. As the above picture shows, one striker managed to go unmarked by the entire defence and break the offside trap. His poor touch meant Daejeon were able to recover, but better teams would have punished this. Sangju did still manage a shot at goal, coming close to equalizing by grazing the crossbar.
Despite constant pressure and a lot of corner kicks, Sangju never really created a clear chance. In fact, the best two chances of the last ten minutes fell to Daejeon. The first came through Leo, with him leading a counter attack from a long ball only to stumble and lose ground. He managed to get a shot away that the keeper parried, and the rebound found itself out into the side netting.
Five minutes later Daejeon almost made the most of another set piece. The ball was headed down inside the box but the resulting shot from 10 yards out was fired straight at the Sangju keeper.
Over the last week weeks Daejeon had improved enough to give their fans hope that their first points of the season were not too far away. This performance, especially its midfield discipline, shows that Daejeon are still a work in progress after a huge summer rebuilding of the squad.
The return of Baba, along with the additions of Leo and Alessandro, make Daejeon look a far better team. Baba offers midfield stability and shape, along with a long throw that will cause many defences trouble.
The selection of 5. Kim played a big role in the victory. He helps retain the ball and build attacks, rather than merely clearing the lines and seeing the ball returned to the opposition.
There was better support for the lone striker than in any previous game, with both Namgung and Kevin receiving support from the wingers much quicker than before.
Despite this, Yoo must still be aware of issues within the side. There were no real clear openings created during play. There were several defensive mix-ups, and the poor decision-making on the ball that was evident in previous games began to creep back in towards the end. On a few occasions Daejeon hit Sangju on the break only for the midfielder in possession either to pick the wrong pass or elect to shoot from distance when there were better options. Better teams in the K-league will capitalize on these and Daejeon will have to look to work on retaining the ball and using it more effectively. Hopefully that can come with time, as perhaps Yoo has finally found a system that suits this team.
Deajeon’s next game is at home to Seongnam, a side who have been under-performing in recent weeks but secured a 1-0 victory away to Chunnam last night.