Newcomers battling it out for top rookie honor

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Newcomers battling it out for top rookie honor

Newcomers Yoon Bitgaram of Gyeongnam FC and Ji Dong-won Chunnam Dragons are battling for the top K-League rookie honor this season.

Yoon, a 20-year-old midfielder, and Ji, a 19-year-old forward, recently made their national team debut against Nigeria. Tabbed by Cho Kwang-rae, the new national team manager, as promising players who can play key roles at the 2014 Brazil World Cup, the two youngsters are putting on a show in the K-League.

Yoon scored the winning goal against Jeonbuk Motors in the 61st minute to help his club to a 3-2 win over the Jeonbuk Motors on Saturday.

The win was made all the more significant because it allowed Gyeongnam a one-game lead over Jeonbuk. Gyeongnam currently holds a record of 10 wins, four ties and two losses while Jeonbuk trails with the record of nine wins, four ties and three losses.

“I also have my eyes on the rookie of the year honor,” said Yoon in post-match interview. “I think I perform better when I have a rival who pushes me to work harder. I know Dong-won scored a goal today as well. I will continue to work hard to perform at my very best.”

Ji did not allow Yoon to steal the spotlight on Saturday and scored a crucial goal of his own, scoring the go-ahead goal in the 24th minute of the match against Jeju United to help his team to a 4-2 win.

It was an important win for the 10th-placed Chunnam squad, which holds a record of four wins, five ties and seven losses against the Jeju United squad, which is currently tied for second in the league standings.

“I will get evaluated on my performance at the end of the season. It’s more important at this point in the season to stay healthy and perform on a consistent basis,” said Ji in a post-match interview, down playing the competition for the top rookie honors. “Yoon is an excellent player. In being compared to such a player, it helps me to focus on improving my play.”

The two players have a proven track record, having had success at the youth level. Yoon previously played on the U-17 national squad in 2007 and played collegiate football for Chung-Ang Univeristy before being drafted by Cho.

Yoon made an immediate impact for Gyeongnam this season. Earning a spot on the starting lineup from day one, Yoon has recorded a goal in three consecutive games and holds season totals of six goals and four assists.

Drafted out of Gwangyang Jecheol High School in Gwangyang, South Jeolla, Ji has posted a total of seven goals and three assists.

By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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