Suwon nets 3rd K-League titleThe Suwon Samsung Bluewings were crowned 2004 K-League pro-soccer champions on Sunday, after edging the Pohang Steelers in a pulsating encounter decided on penalty kicks.
The vocal crowd of 36,000 who witnessed the second leg of the championship final at Suwon World Cup Stadium were treated to a dandy match, as the two sides alternated conservative defense with bursts of aggressive football.
The teams played a total of 210 tense minutes, including 90 in the first leg in Pohang, without a goal. In the penalty kick phase, it was left to Korea’s hero from the 2002 World Cup, Suwon keeper Lee Woon-jae, to seal victory by stopping his Pohang counterpart Kim Byung-ji’s attempt from the spot.
Suwon was a continuous threat throughout the game. The Brazilian duo of Nadson and Marcel on attack and midfielder Kim Doo-hyun charged the Pohang defense like wild bulls, but could not break the deadlock.
Pohang had three shots of its own bounce off the goalposts. In the 28th minute, Lee Min-sung unleashed a mid-range rocket as the ball popped out of a jam in the box, only to find the right post.
In the 14th minute of the second half, Pohang forward Conan squeezed the ball between two Suwon players and let loose a howler that again found nothing but post.
Kim Doo-hyun’s industrious mid-ranger in the 38th minute and Kim Dae-eui’s cross slide from Kim Doo-hyun three minutes into the second half were both turned back by the Steelers’ keeper.
In the penalty shootout, the first three shooters from Suwon found the back of the net, with Pohang keeping pace until Lee Min-sung gaffed first, clanging his attempt off the bar for a 3-2 Samsung lead.
Steelers’ goalkeeper Kim Byung-ji pulled one back for Pohang, punching away Kim Jin-woo’s low shot, before Pohang’s Petreski replied from the spot. Suwon’s Zoran Urumov blasted home his attempt, setting up a do-or-die situation between the two keepers. Kim Byung-ji’s low shot to the right was parried by the Suwon keeper, handing his team the championship.
It is the third championship for Suwon, winners in 1998 and 1999, and is an indication of the venerable leadership of their skipper, Cha Bum-kun, who joined the team this year.
Pohang Steelers coach Choi Soon-ho, who already announced his retirement, missed his last chance to hoist another championship trophy.
Cha laughed and cried as he held the trophy like a child. “I’ve never cried after a victory before,” said the former soccer star. “No one can imagine how happy I am. This is the first championship title for me since I started coaching pro soccer in 1991.”
Things were more reserved in the losing side’s locker room. “There is a feeling of remorse, but the players did their best and followed our game plan,” Choi said. “It is a cruel way to end the game with a penalty shootout.”
by Chang Hye-soo, Limb Jae-un