Busan IPark salvaged a 98th minute stoppage equaliser to deny Daejeon an unlikely away victory in a breathless encounter at the Busan Asiad Stadium.
This was a game that had it all and was a brilliant advert for Korean football. There was world class finishing, defensive blunders, attractive passing football, penalties and VAR controversy – everything except a winner and was undoubtedly the game of the season so far in the K League 2.
Regardless, this was a game Busan should have won and Daejeon were fortunate to even get a draw. Busan had countless opportunities to score but were denied by brilliant goalkeeping from the busy Daejeon keeper Lim Min-hyuk, some embarrassing defensive errors and a questionable VAR decision by the referee, who gave a penalty when the foul appeared to be outside the box.
Veteran defender Lee Jong-min (17) and experienced attacker Ko Kyung-min (19) came into the Busan IPark line up after only featuring as substitutes in their win against Seongnam, with Kim Moon-Hwan (33) and Ku Hyeon-Jun (27) dropped to the bench. The former Hoffenheim youngster Park In-Hyeon (64) retained his place on the wing for Daejeon behind newly converted front man Aurelian Chitu (27), however there was no place for top scorer and Uzbek international Shohruh Gadeov (30), who was now available after serving a two match ban. Kim Jin-Young (1) was declared unavailable on the eve of the fixture, after undergoing surgery for ligament damage, and was replaced by second choice goalkeeper Lim Min-hyuk (36).
Daejeon got off to a productive start, and scored from their first opportunity in the fifth minute.
After some smart, incisive fast passing by the Daejeon midfield, Kang Yoon-sung (41) took a touch with his left foot to set up a vicious left footed strike into the bottom left corner from 30 yards. Koo Sang-min (21) was left with no chance, as the shot took one bounce and sailed past the Busan keeper.
This led Busan to press forward looking for an equalizer. The impressive Brazilian playmaker Romulo (10) cut the defence open to set Kim Hyun-sung (18) free twice with only the keeper to beat, but was denied firstly by a poor first touch, then the post.
Midway through the first half, Kim Chi-woo (7) shot wide from 20 yards when gives acres of space by a visibly stretched Daejeon defence, before Han Ji-ho (22) left the Daejeon defence for dead, cutting inside from the left flank past two defenders to shoot from a tight angle. The shot was heading for the far right corner but Daejeon keeper Lim Min-hyuk (36) did well to get down quickly and made a fine reaction save.
He was called upon again five minutes later to save again from the lively Han Ji-ho (22), who was only able to shoot directly at the goalkeeper after being released by Kim Jin-gyu (23) in a well worked move with plenty of one touch football. The rebound came to Ko Kyung-Min (19), whose bicycle kick was well blocked in the six yard box by Kim Jeong-Hyun (6).
With a Busan goal seeming inevitable, disaster struck as Daejeon made it 2-0 completely against the run of play.
Busan CB Kim Myung-joon (15), under no pressure and with two defenders alongside, made the inexplicable decision to try to head the ball back to the keeper 30 yards from goal. With no power on the header, Daejeon striker Park In-hyeok (19) reacted quickly and was gifted possession with only the unfortunate Busan goalkeeper Lim Min-hyuk (36) to beat. He kept his composure to round the keeper and shoot into an empty net.
Busan put themselves under pressure to respond and did so immediately. LB Jeong Ho-jeong (2) whipped in a cross at pace from the left wing, which appeared to take the Daejeon defence by surprise, leaving Han Ji-ho (22) unmarked to volley on the stretch from 5 yards.
The home side almost immediately made it 2-2, with Lee Jong-min (17) playing a 30-yard pass that cut through 7 Daejeon players, releasing Kim Jin-gyu (23) one on one with the keeper, but he tamely put his effort wide of the left post.
There was one final scare for IPark, as Busan midfielder Lee Jae-kwon (8) gave the ball away cheaply on the half way line but was able to recover to foul the player and take a yellow card for a professional foul.
At half time, Busan manager Choi Yun-kyum made a tactical change to push Romulo (10) into a deeper playmaker role, with Ko Kyung-min (19) moving up from central midfield into an advanced striker position. This decision paid immediate dividends as Han Ji-ho (22) found Ko in a central position, cutting back to take out two defenders before firing a left footed shot into the bottom right corner with the goalkeeper unsighted.
Busan were level but uncomplacent, and had a string of chances in an eventful second half. Most of these fell to Ko Kyung-min, who made good runs and was excellent at finding space beyond the porous Daejeon defence but was denied by their excellent goalkeeper Lim on three occasions – once when fed through one on one by Romulo (10), once from a clever through ball at pace by Kim Chi-woo (7) and once from a whipped in cross by Lee Jong-min (17).
On the fourth occasion, Busan thought they had taken the lead. The ball was played out from the defence to Lee on the wing, who whipped in a good ball for Min to volley impressively past the keeper. Amongst the wild celebrations, the referee consulted VAR who found Lee to be offside, and the scores remained at 2-2.
In this same time period, Daejeon created a couple of dangerous opportunities, as the impressive Romanian Chitu headed wide from 8 yards on a counter attack, before Kang Yoon-Sung (41) played a pass across goal that somehow eluded everyone with the goalmouth gaping before being deflected for a corner. Busan substitute Lee Dong-Jun (11) then similarly picked out Kim Hyung-sung (18) with the keeper out of position, but he was unable to get a touch when sliding to make contact.
Soon after, Busan won a penalty for their attacking endeavor. Lee Jea-kwon (8) found substitute Kim Moon-Hwan (33) after a passage of sharp, short passing but was recklessly taken down in the box. Up stepped Ko Kyung-min (19) to shoot towards the bottom left corner after a nervous run up, but it was yet again saved by the impressive Lim Min-hyuk.
Daejeon counter attacked and found Aurelian Chitu (27) in acres of space with a long ball, who was tackled by Busan goalkeeper Lim, but failed to win the ball. The referee initially waved play on, but after playing on for a full minute brought play to a halt to consult VAR. After a nervous wait, the referee decided to give a penalty to a frantic reaction from the Busan bench.
As the big screens in the Asiad Main Stadium showed the replay, it became evident the referee had made a monumental error, as the foul appeared to be just outside the box. Busan’s fans and players both appeared furious and lodged complaints with the refereeing team and KFA officials present, but it didn’t unsettle Daejeon’s star man Chitu who fired a brilliant penalty at pace into the bottom left corner. Though Daejeon had been fortunate, they were clinical and capitalised on the few opportunities they were afforded to take a 3-2 lead.
Kim Jin-kyu (23) moved into a more advanced position with Busan chasing an equalizer, and injured himself heading a shot wide when found in space by Romulo’s fantastic long range cross.
In stoppage time, Kim Hyung-sung (18) found substitute Lee Dong-jun (11) with a whipped in through ball, but was unable to make contact, and Daejeon collected possession to counter attack at pace. Citizen substitute Shin Hak-young (13) shot over from 20 yards with an open goal gaping having been set up by the menacing Chitu.
Finally, in the 98th minute of the match, Busan won a corner. Romulo stepped up to take it and after a goalmouth scramble it was deflected from the goalkeeper back to substitute Shin Young-jun (13) to find the back of the net. This cued delirious celebrations amongst the home supporters and disappointment for the Daejeon players who thought they had stolen an away win.
Questions will be asked about both the standard of refereeing and the ineffective use of VAR in the aftermath of this game, with Busan manager Choi Yun-kyum suggesting “if the ruling is wrong, it may be unfair” but ultimately stating “I do not want to talk about the referee”, whilst Daejeon boss Ko Jung-soo admitted it was a “controversial decision”. However, this takes nothing away from the drama of the beautiful game and the 1,034 fans in attendance went home having seen a fantastic game of football.