New club players show their stuff
The K-League Classic, Korea’s first-division football league with 12 clubs, kicked off the 2017 season last weekend with six matches. Thirteen goals were produced in the opening round, and eight of them were scored by players who were making debuts in their new clubs.
Gangwon FC, newly promoted from the second-tier K-League Challenge, earned a 2-1 win over military club Sangju Sangmu on Saturday on the road, thanks to former Asian Football Confederation Player of the Year Lee Keun-ho who joined the club from Jeju United this winter.
Lee grabbed a brace against Sangju, including a winner in the 87th minute. Last year, he only scored five goals with Jeju.
Gangwon made a splash this winter with their shopping spree. In Gangwon’s starting lineup, eight players were newly signed, and they also contributed to the club’s victory.
Gangwon’s Jung Jo-gook, who won the MVP and scoring titles with Gwangju FC last year, missed a penalty kick in the first half but assisted Lee’s first goal in the 59th. Kim Seung-yong, who returned to the Classic for the first time in four years after stints in Australia, China and Thailand, also set up Lee’s second goal with a cross from the right flank.
Sangju’s goal was also produced by their new players. Kim Ho-nam, who joined Sangju from Jeju, tapped home winger Kim Tae-hwan’s cross to score an equalizer in the 80th minute. Kim Tae-hwan is also Sangju’s new recruitment as he moved from Ulsan Hyundai to complete his mandatory military service.
New players also shined in Sunday’s three matches.
The 2016 AFC Champions League winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors saw their left back Kim Jin-su bagging his K-League debut goal in their 2-1 victory against the Jeonnam Dragons.
Kim joined Jeonbuk in January after playing for Japanese side Albirex Niigata and German Bundesliga club Hoffenheim.
Against Jeonnam, he opened the scoring in the 39th minute with a free kick.
Jeonnam’s new foreign player Robert Feczesin almost became a hero when he leveled the score 1-1 in the 84th against Jeonbuk. The Hungarian striker, however, couldn’t smile at the end, as Jeonbuk’s Kim Shin-wook scored the winning goal in the second extra time.
Defending champions FC Seoul and reigning Korea Football Association Cup winners Suwon Samsung Bluewings played to a 1-1 draw, but both teams were helped by their new players.
Suwon’s Kim Min-woo gave the lead to the visitors with a left-footed strike in the ninth minute. This was Kim’s first goal in the K-League as he played seven seasons with Japan’s Sagan Tosu before signing with Suwon.
Seoul’s Lee Sang-ho made the match more interesting when he scored against his former club in the 63rd minute. The 29-year-old winger left Suwon to sign a three-year contract with Seoul in December.
Jeju also benefited from their new player Magno Cruz as the Brazilian scored with a header against Incheon United for a 1-0 win.