Busan IPark Snatch Vital Point in Seoul

Busan IPark fought back from a goal down to snatch a 1-1 draw against FC Seoul on Saturday evening in the K League 1. A late Kim Jeong-hyeon header salvaged the point for Busan after an uneven performance away in the capital.

Busan coach Cho Deok-jae rang the changes after a frustrating 3-1 defeat to Suwon Bluewings last weekend, with international right-back Kim Moon-hwan among five recalls to the starting lineup. The reshuffle seemed to pay off in the opening quarter of an hour, with Busan pressing high and creating half-chances through Romulo and Lee Dong-joon.

Cho’s side soon ran out of ideas going forward, however, and they were gradually penned back by an improving Seoul side. The home team eventually broke the deadlock when veteran striker Park Chu-young took advantage of Lee Sang-joon’s inexperience to spring the Busan offside trap. Park rounded Busan keeper Kim Ho-joon and played the ball across the six-yard box, only for Busan defender Dostonbek Tursunov to inadvertently divert the ball into his own net.

Seoul only looked more dangerous after scoring as Busan floundered. The Royals’ usually tidy midfield trio failed to keep possession in the middle of the park, with veteran enforcer Park Jong-woo especially sloppy, while forwards Kim Hyun and Kim Seung-joon failed to offer any kind of attacking outlet. The half time whistle came as a relief to Busan, who were lucky to go into the break only one goal down.

Cho Deok-jae has been under fire in some quarters recently for poor decision-making and negative tactics, but the Busan coach deserves a modicum of credit for the way he motivated his side for the second half. The Royals pressed faster and higher after the restart, and Lee Dong-joon spearheaded a lively second-half performance that showed more glimpses of the quick and free-flowing interplay that characterized the side last season.

Kim Hyun, Lee Dong-joon, and Romulo all squandered chances after neat attacking buildups, but in the end, it took a simple set piece for the Royals to get back into the game. Romulo’s outswinging corner in the 85th minute was headed home by debutant Kim Jeong-hyeon, who had only been on the field a matter of minutes.

There was still time for Busan to survive a late scare, as Park Chu-young was unfortunate not to win a penalty for Seoul after being hacked at by Busan defender Kang Min-soo.  The referee and his assistants spotted an offside in the buildup, however, and Busan held on for a valuable away point.

Busan dropped to tenth despite the late equalizer, and now only three matches remain until the top six and bottom six split into separate leagues for a final round of five games. A single point separates the teams between sixth and tenth, so Busan is still in with a chance of a top-half finish. They will, however, also be looking over their shoulders at bottom side Incheon United, who currently occupy the only relegation spot in twelfth.

Busan host Incheon next Sunday at 7 p.m., in what could be a vital game in consolidating Busan’s top-flight status for next season.

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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