Gyeongnam FC’s Seol Ki-hyun and Bucheon FC’s Lee Young-min once again faced each other on a wooden bridge. The same matchup from the semi-playoffs a year ago. This time, Gyeongnam had the laugh.
Gyeongnam drew 0-0 with Bucheon in the Hana One Q 2023 K League 2 Semi-Finals at the Changwon Football Center on Monday, but earned a spot in the playoffs due to their advantage in the standings. Gyeongnam and Bucheon have the same number of points (54) in this year’s regular season, but 텍사스홀덤 Gyeongnam has a superior goal difference and is in fourth place.
Seol, who has been at the helm of Gyeongnam since the 2020 season, has led the club to the top round in all three of his Semi-Po appearances (2020-2022-2023). Last year, Gyeongnam, who needed a win to finish fifth, advanced to the PO with a dramatic 3-2 victory after Thiago opened the scoring for Bucheon in second-half stoppage time following a 2-2 tie.
From the start of the match, the battle of the benches was interesting. Gyeongnam seemed to put the weight of the game behind them by benching Won Ki-jong, the team’s second-leading scorer (10 goals), as well as Castro (6 goals) and Park Min-seo (5 goals). Bucheon also left their top scorer, Ahn Jae-jun (11 goals), out of the starting lineup and used him as a “joker. The substitution foreshadowed the match.
With home field advantage, Gyeongnam took the early lead. However, both teams struggled to get close to the opponent’s goal and create decisive chances. Bucheon’s first shot on goal was a deflected header by Lupeta in the 23rd minute, as they were desperate to stop Gyeongnam’s offense. Needing a win, Bucheon made an early substitution in the 35th minute, bringing on Ahn Jae-jun for Lupeta, who complained of a sore left leg.
The introduction of Ahn Jae-jun gradually lifted Bucheon’s spirits, and the time Bucheon spent pressing hard in the opponent’s zone increased in the second half. Gyeongnam missed a great chance to take the lead in the 11th minute of the second half when Song Hong-min’s sharp free kick failed to connect with a header. Bucheon also hit the ground running in the 15th minute when Choi Jae-young’s header from a Park Hyung-sik corner kick floated over the bar.
Gyeongnam also tried to find a wedge goal for the PO in the 20th minute by introducing Park Min-seo, Won Ki-jong, and Castro, who had been saving up for the match.
In the second half of the match, Bucheon tried to attack the opponent’s goal more aggressively, but it was difficult to break through the goal protected by Gyeongnam goalkeeper Ko Dong-min. Go made a great save on Nilsson Junior’s free kick in the 42nd minute, and also blocked one of Jung Hee-woong’s crucial shots in extra time.
Gyeongnam, who had their promotion dreams dashed after failing to get past FC Anyang in the PO last year, will face Gimpo FC, who finished third in the regular season, in the PO on December 2. The winner of that match will have a chance to challenge for promotion to the first division through the promotion PO (Dec. 6-9, home and away) against the 10th-ranked team in the K League 1 on Dec. 9.
“It won’t be an easy game, but I expect our players to create chances and score goals. We have many years of experience in the playoffs, so we’ll make sure we get to the PO,” said Seol. Gyeongnam and Gimpo previously met in the 39th and final round of the regular season on March 26, with Gyeongnam winning 1-0.