When the East Coast Derby kicked off on the afternoon of the 12th, the temperature in Ulsan was a balmy 8 degrees, which is still warmer than Seoul, but it certainly wasn’t conducive to playing soccer. I was surprised to see that eight of the 22 players in the starting lineup were short-sleeved. This is the season for typos in the press box.
The two teams faced off in early winter, with their seasons virtually decided, but that didn’t dampen their spirits. Not only was it a rivalry match between Ulsan Hyundai and Pohang Steelers, but it also had the feel of a king of kings or supercup match between two teams that had already won the K League 1 and FA Cup.
In addition to the recent fatigue from the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL), Pohang also had a number of injuries from the FA Cup, so the starting lineup included three prospects born in 2002. They were basically used to fill in for the absence of mainstays Kim Seung-dae and Ko Young-joon, but Kim said in a pre-match interview that they were more than capable of playing against Ulsan. “I expect them to do a good job up front.”
Hong Yun-sang, who already has two K League 1 goals, is a well-established member of the first team, while Yoon Jae-woon, who was lively in the recent Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) win over Urawa Reales, is also overdue for his first professional start.레모나토토 주소
And Kang Hyun-je, who had only been a late substitute in the ACL, started his first real professional game. Kim said that Kang grew up with Yang Hyun-joon (Celtic) in the Busan Information Center soccer program and that he noticed him in a scrimmage during his freshman year at Sangji University. He was described as flexible and able to create chances from the second line.
Their early performances exceeded expectations. In the 31st minute of the first half, Kang Hyun-jae scored his professional debut goal after receiving his first professional assist from Yoon Jae-woon. The team’s skillful distribution and one-touch play stood out as they quickly penetrated when opportunities arose.
In the second half, however, Ulsan’s national team players turned the game around with three goals in 17 minutes. After a frustrating first-half offense, Ulsan started the second half with coach Hong Myung-bo’s instructions to shoot more, and the game got off to a good start when Lee In-joo’s bold shot hit the post and gave Seol Young-woo the lead. Kim Tae-hwan’s assist and Ataru’s goal, and Uhm Won-sang’s assist and In-joo’s goal followed. In addition, the reputation and skills of the substitutes were also overwhelming for Ulsan. Pohang pushed hard after Lee Ho-jae’s late goal in the 37th minute, but were unable to equalize.
For Hong, it’s all about the final stretch of the season. He has already secured the K League 1 title. The big match, the East Coast Derby, has passed. More important than the league is the ACL. Ulsan is in second place in Group I with two wins and two losses and needs to perform well in the last two games of the group stage, which runs until December 12, to advance to the tournament.
However, focusing all of their energy on the ACL and neglecting the K League 1 could cause the team to lose motivation and stagnate. “We will realistically put in players who are well-prepared for each game,” Hong said, emphasizing more on normal end-of-season operations rather than unnecessary reserves. There is no such thing as a ‘losing game’.
Pohang has already secured early passage through the ACL group stage with four wins in four games, so even if they lose all of their upcoming matches, they won’t be in trouble. The team can also prepare for next year early by actively using prospects for the rest of the season. “We have a lot of injuries,” said coach Kim Ki-dong. That’s why we have a lot of prospects playing already. We need to talk to the players and if they are tired, we can rest them and give younger players a chance. Or maybe the existing players will recover and want to play. If there are too many young players, the team will have more ups and downs, so I will try to find a balance,” he said, adding that he will actively use young players without crossing the line.
With the season already wrapped up, Kim’s thoughts turn to next year. Kim talked about next year’s preparations, mentioning the upcoming free agents who need to be re-signed, as well as players whose contracts are still up, but whose outstanding performances have led to rumors of interest from home and abroad. However, as a coach who knows Pohang’s recent form, he dismissed the idea of keeping them unconditionally. “If there is a ransom, and a team comes along that pays that much, shouldn’t we let them go? If it’s that much money, we should let them go and make a new team.”