As Jeonbuk striker closes in on 40-40, he reflects on team

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As Jeonbuk striker closes in on 40-40, he reflects on team

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Jeonbuk striker Lee Dong-gook celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal against Gyeongnam FC at Jeonju World Cup stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla, on Saturday. [JoongAng Ilbo]

It seems that Jeonbuk Motors FC striker Lee Dong-gook is really showing off his skills this season. Lee scored another goal and recorded an assist in his team’s 2-0 win over Gyeongnam FC on Saturday and maintained his position as the K-League’s leader in both categories.

Lee played a pivotal role in the 13th round of the K-League in Jeonju, North Jeolla. In the game against Gyeongnam, the 32-year-old striker - nicknamed the “Lion King” for the wild mane of hair he wore when he first debuted in the K-League - first notched an assist for his Brazilian teammate Eninho, who broke the 0-0 deadlock in the 27th minute with his right foot. Lee could have been the first scorer in this game but his header in the 12th minute was ruled offside.

But Lee finally put his name on the board in the 73rd minute. Gyeongnam goalkeeper Kim Byung-ji blocked a shot by Kim Dong-chan but Lee followed up and tapped the rebound into the net. Thanks to Lee’s performance, Jeonbuk beat Gyeongnam 2-0 and maintained its top position in the K-League table. Jeonbuk has nine wins, one draw and three losses and is now four points ahead of the Pohang Steelers, who drew 1-1 in a stalemate with FC Seoul on Saturday.

For Lee, it was another great game. The former Werder Bremen and Middlesbrough striker now has 10 goals and seven assists, putting him on top of both statistics in the K-League this season. And Lee is now only one assist away from having at least 40 goals and 40 assists (40-40) throughout his career, which only 11 players have done in K-League history. He currently has 109 goals and 39 assists in 262 games.

Football experts say if Lee continues to perform this well, it will be the best season in his career. He was top scorer and MVP in 2009 by scoring 21 goals, but the player didn’t collect a single assist that year.

This season, Lee has seven assists, but if the striker continues his pace, he will be the third player in K-League history to sweep both the goal and assist titles. Choi Sang-kuk and Thai international Piyapong Pue-on are the only two players who have captured both titles, but that was in the 1980s.

Jeonbuk head coach Choi Kang-hee said that if Lee doesn’t get injured, he could set an extraordinary record this season. After the game on Saturday, Ilgan Sports, the JoongAng Ilbo’s daily sports newspaper, caught up with Lee and asked him about his record and recent performances.


Q. You are just one assist away from 40-40, are you aware about the record?

A. I am not especially aware about the record. A record is something that remains when I retire, so I don’t really care about it when I am playing. I will just keep my form and help my team win.

What’s your secret to collect assists?

To tell the truth, getting assists is much harder [than scoring goals]. This year, I feel comfortable playing because my teammates are scoring easily. The team is getting stronger because many players are scoring goals.

Do you think you can be the top scorer with the most assists this season?

We have to see after the season is over. I personally want to finish the season without injury.

Your head coach, Choi Kang-hee, told reporters that you are in the best form of your career, what do you think?

(Laughs) I am not that great. I try to make easy plays. You always get injured when you try to twist and turn quickly to evade markers and things like that. I always keep that in my mind.

As a veteran, what do you say to your young teammates?

They are all talented players, so I just boost their confidence before they get on the pitch. I try to talk to them first and not follow the old hierarchy between players. I think Kim Sang-sik (defender) is behind all this movement and he is leading the team well.

It seems you have composure in your plays.

My team tops the league and we get a lot of opening goals. If we concede a goal first, we lose tempo. That is why opening goals are important.


By Oh Myung-chul, Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]

이동국 “쉽게 플레이하려고 노력한다”

'13경기 10골'

지금 기세라면 이동국(32·전북 현대)은 2009년 득점왕 당시 기록한 22골도 넘어설 것으로 보인다. 당시엔 도움이 1개도 없었지만 올해는 도움도 7개로 선두를 달리고 있다. 이동국은 11일 전주월드컵경기장에서 열린 K-리그 13라운드 경남전에서 1골 1도움을 올리며 리그 10골 7도움을 기록했다. 이동국은 최근 상승세의 비결로 쉽게 플레이하려는 자세를 꼽았다. 다음은 이동국과의 일문일답.

-경기를 마친 소감은.

"휴식기가 우리에게 보약이 됐다, 체력적으로 지친 상태에서 휴식해 충전이 됐다. 1위를 지키기 위해 끝까지 최선을 다했다. 경남이 퇴장을 당해 경기가 유리해진 것도 사실이다. 경기 내용이나 골을 허용하지 않겠다는 의지나 모두 좋았다고 생각한다."

-40(골)-40(도움) 기록에 도움 하나를 남겼다.

"글쎄… 크게 의식은 안 한다. 기록은 내가 은퇴했을때 남겨지는 것이지 현역에서는 크게 신경쓰지 않는다. 지금같은 페이스를 유지해 팀이 이기는 데 기여하겠다. 골이든 도움이든 팀을 위해 하겠다."

-도움이 늘어난 비결은.

"사실 도움이 더 힘들다. 올해는 도움을 받는 선수들이 골을 착착 넣어주니 경기가 편해진다. 팀이 선제골을 넣으면서 나에게도 기회가 더 왔다. 팀이 상당히 좋아졌다. 결정을 지어줄 선수들이 많으니 한 선수에 집중되지 않고 여러명이 득점해 팀이 강해지고 있다."

-득점과 도움 모두 1위를 할 수 있다.

"시즌 끝나봐야 아는 것이다. 부상없이 경기를 끝까지 소화하겠다는 목표를 가지고 임하고 있다."

-최강희 감독이 '좀 말려달라'고 할 정도로 컨디션이 좋다는데.

"그 정도는 아니다.(웃음) 쉬운 플레이를 하려고 노력한다. (골을 넣기) 어려운 상황에서 안 하는 모션을 하게 되는데 그럴때 부상이 온다, 머릿속에 그런 생각을 가지고 한다."

-베테랑으로서 후배들에 어떤 조언을 하는가

"전부 능력이 있는 선수들이니 운동장에서 자기 실력을 낼 수 있도록 자신감을 불어넣어 준다. 먼저 다가가 얘기도 자주 하는 편이다. 옛날같은 선·후배 관계보다 허물없이 지내려고 한다. (김)상식이 형이 중심에 있다. 팀을 잘 끌어가고 있는 것 같다."

-여유가 늘었다.

"팀이 1위를 하고 있고 선취득점이 많기 때문에 상대팀을 이끌고 갈 수 있다는 점이 좋다. 그래서 플레이가 더 좋아지고 있다. 먼저 실점하면 끌려가며 급하게 하게 된다. 선취득점이 가장 중요하다."

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