Busan IPark in Trouble After Gangwon Defeat

Busan IPark were edged closer to the threat of relegation on Wednesday evening after losing 2-1 at home to Gangwon FC in the K League 1.

Other results didn’t go Busan’s way, with Incheon United beating FC Seoul and Suwon Bluewings gaining a vital point against Pohang Steelers. A win for Busan would have taken them into the top six, but Gangwon’s stunning late winner has condemned Cho Deok-jae’s side to a nervy end to the season.

Gangwon FC, known for their attractive attacking football under coach Kim Byung-soo, were the better side in the first half. Cho Jae-wan twice missed the target when well placed in the opening quarter of an hour, and he later drove a fierce shot narrowly over the bar as Gangwon probed the Busan defense.

The home side had some positive moments, with the much-maligned Kim Byong-oh lively on the left-wing and midfielder Lee Gyu-sung venturing forward to good effect, but the Royals failed to find an end product to their promising passages of play.

The second half was an even more open affair, with both sides throwing caution to the wind in search of a vital win. Gangwon finally took the lead on 57 minutes when Lee Hyun-sik danced into the Busan box and threaded a dangerous ball across the six-yard box. The ball evaded three Busan defenders and Jo Jae-wan made up for his earlier misses by converting from close range.

Busan was unlucky not to equalize two minutes later when a trademark Romulo curler from 25 yards crashed off the crossbar, while at the other end Busan keeper Kim Ho-jun made a fingertip save to deny Kim Seung-dae.

The Royals got the goal their play deserved on 66 minutes when Kim Dong-woo headed home Romulo’s corner, and Busan was unlucky not to take the lead when Romulo’s inch-perfect cross was headed onto the bar by Gustavo Vintecinco.

It wasn’t to be Busan’s day, however, and Gangwon scored a winner on 83 minutes. Former Busan midfielder Lee Young-jae was the hero for the visitors, scoring a stunning 30-yard curler into the top corner.

The result took Gangwon up to sixth, while Busan remains in tenth spot. The two teams below Busan, Suwon Bluewings and Incheon United, are now only three points behind the Royals with six games to play. The bottom team will automatically be relegated to the K League 2.

Busan IPark face a daunting trip to last year’s champions Jeonbuk Hyundai on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. After the coming weekend’s games, the top division’s twelve teams will split into two mini-leagues, with Busan playing each team in the bottom half once more.

Tomas Marcantonio
Tomas writes novels, travel, flash fiction, and sports. He’s been getting gleefully lost in Busan’s neon-lit backstreets since 2011. You can follow Tomas on Twitter @TJMarcantonio and @IparkBusan

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