Jeonbuk Hyundai, aiming to conquer Asia, achieved its first win after a difficult time.
Jeonbuk won 2-1 with Han Kyo-won’s winning goal in the 16th minute of the second half in the first match of the 2023-2024 Asian Champions League (ACL) Group F match against Kitchee SC (Hong Kong) held at Jeonju World Cup Stadium on the 20th. Jeonbuk, trying to win the title for the first time in 7 years since 2016, tried to get off to a good start with a big win at home, but managed to win after a struggle. Jeonbuk missed out on a ticket to the finals, which they had won in last season’s ACL, and unfortunately stopped in the semifinals. Jeonbuk qualified for the ACL finals by winning the FA Cup last season. Jeonbuk was in Group 1 along with Thailand’s Bangkok United, Singapore’s Lion City, and Kichi. It is evaluated as the easiest group among the four K League teams, including Ulsan Hyundai, Pohang Steelers, and Incheon United.
However, the recent situation in Jeonbuk is not good. There is no win in the last 5 games with 3 draws and 2 losses. The ranking also dropped to 6th place. There is a widespread sense of crisis that the team could fall to Final B for the first time since its founding. Of course, there were variables in which five key players, including Baek Seung-ho, Song Min-gyu, Park Jin-seop, Kim Jeong-hoon, and Park Jae-yong, were selected to the Asian Games national team, but even taking this into account, the performance is not very good.
Petrescu-style soccer, which focuses on Boateng and sends the ball quickly to the side and then finishes, is not working well. The destructive power of the front line has noticeably decreased due to the transfer of Cho Kyu-sung and the poor performance of foreign strikers such as Gustavo and Hapa Silva, but Coach Petrescu’s monotonous attack appears to be being read by the opposing defense. Jeonbuk has only scored three goals in the last five games. The defense that supported Jeonbuk is also poor, conceding 6 goals in 5 games.
If Jeonbuk fails to rebound in the ACL, the crisis could accelerate. Coach Dan Petrescu said at a press conference the previous day, “This is the first ACL game of the season. Every moment is important. The situation and atmosphere we are in is not good. We need a new turn to promote change,” and “Home game.” As such, we must be aggressive. We must show active forward pressure and a lot of activity. We will take the lead in leading the game. I think it is correct to say that 7 players are missing, including 5 from the Asian Games and 2 from injuries. Jeonbuk has a solid team. “We are doing it, but it is true that it is a very difficult situation. This competition is a short-term group stage first.”
Coach Petrescu showed off his best efforts. He presented a unique 4-4-2 card. Gustavo and Jun Amano stood at the front. Gustavo scored a goal with a penalty kick in the last league game against Gangwon. Moon Seon-min, Ryu Jae-moon, Boateng, and Han Kyo-won stood in the waist line. The back four consisted of Kim Jin-soo, Hong Jeong-ho, Koo Ja-ryong, and Ahn Hyeon-beom, and the goal was guarded by Jeong Min-ki. Andre Luis, Thomas Patrasek, Maeng Seong-woong, Lee Soo-bin, Jeong Woo-jae, and Oh Jae-hyuk started on the bench.
The first goal was scored early on. In the 6th minute of the first half, Amano scored a free kick from the left. Hong Jeong-ho finished with a great header. Hong Jeong-ho tasted a goal for the first time in 15 months since scoring against Samsung in Suwon on June 22, 2022. Jeonbuk continued to push Kichi. In the 18th minute, Amano fired a fantastic left-footed free kick. Goalkeeper Kichi made a super save. On the following corner kick, Hong Jeong-ho tried to shoot, but was blocked by the defense’s hand-to-hand defense.
Jeonbuk continued to keep possession of the ball and pushed unilaterally. But I couldn’t create a chance like this. In the 35th minute, Kim Jin-su caught Amano’s cross from the right. Kim Jin-su hit a powerful left-footed shot without any angle. The goalkeeper made a save. The moment Boateng caught the ball, Kitsch defender pushed it. Jeonbuk received a free kick in a good position. Moon Seon-min kicked the ball, but it missed the goal. In the 38th minute, Ahn Hyun-beom completely destroyed the right flank with a wonderful breakthrough after connecting with Han Kyo-won, but the cutback was blocked by the opposing defense.
In the 40th minute, a chance arose on the left. Moon Seon-min and Amano shot one after another. All of them hit the opposing defender’s body. Kitchi, who played defense throughout the first half, fired his first shot in the 43rd minute. He hit a shot from a free kick opportunity resulting from a foul by Ryu Jae-moon, but it went wide. In the extra time of the first half, Amano’s corner kick 안전놀이터from the right went straight to the goal. The opposing defense managed to clear it with a header. In the corner kick that followed again, Moon Seon-min’s shot missed the defense, and Hong Jeong-ho hit it again, but was hit by the defense again.
The situation was similar in the second half. Jeonbuk possessed the ball, but did not come up with a powerful attack. In the 5th minute of the second half, Kitchi had a good opportunity. Clayton fired a volley from the front of the arc. Goalkeeper Jeong Min-ki made the save. It was Kitsch’s first effective shot. Jeonbuk looked for an opportunity with Moon Seon-min’s breakthrough, but it did not result in a shot. We had a good opportunity in the 8th minute. Han Kyo-won jumped in and headed Boateng’s cross. It missed the goal slightly.
In the 11th minute, Kitsch scored the equalizer. Ryu Jae-moon was unable to properly head Kitchie’s long throw-in, and it went backwards. Michael caught this and attempted an overhead kick from an angle, which unfortunately went over Jeong Min-ki and into the goal. Jeonbuk, who allowed the score to be tied, launched an all-out offensive. We took the lead again in the 16th minute. A shot from in front of the arc hit the defense. Coincidentally, it passed to Han Kyo-won. Han Kyo-won cut into Kitchie’s net with a calm inside kick.
Jeonbuk regained its composure and took control of the game again. In the 21st minute, Ahn Hyun-beom’s free kick hit the wall. Koo Ja-ryong headed Amano’s corner kick in the 22nd minute. It hit the defense and went slightly over the crossbar. In the 27th minute, Amano entered the penalty box with a bold breakthrough. Although he tripped over the opponent’s defense, the referee did not declare a penalty kick.At 37 minutes, a dizzying scene appeared. Boateng collided with his opponent and fell. Luckily it happened. In the 38th minute, Jeonbuk made a change. Amano and Han Kyo-won were left out, and Jung Woo-jae and Lee Su-bin were added. Kitchi also added Yang Yang and Ebirayem. Jeonbuk continued to hold the ball and attack, but it was not finished. In the 42nd minute, Gustavo dropped Boateng’s kick toward Moon Seon-min. Unfortunately, Moon Seon-min was unable to catch the ball. Before the end of the game, Jeonbuk replaced Ryu Jae-moon and brought in Maeng Seong-woong. There were no additional goals, and the game ultimately ended in Jeonbuk’s victory.