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Cup thrills in Korea and England

Hwang Hee-chan of the Salzburg in action during a recent game/ AP-Yonhap

By Jon Duerden

It has been another fascinating week for South Korean soccer. Two outsiders reached the semifinal of the Korea FA Cup. One was Hwaseong from the fourth tier of the pyramid in Korean soccer. Hwaseong defeated the mighty Suwon Samsung Bluewings 1-0 in the first leg and after 90 minutes of the second leg, the tie was all square 1-1.

Over the years, Yeom Ki-hun has stepped up time and time again to save Suwon and the veteran winger did just that, Wednesday. Yeom scored the goal that took the game into extra-time and then scored twice more to give Suwon a 3-0 lead on the evening and a 3-1 win on aggregate.

Suwon however will take on third tier Daejeon Korail in the two-legged final that takes place on Nov.6 and 10. Daejeon defeated top tier Sangju Sangmu in a penalty shootout after its semifinal ended 3-3 over two legs.

For Suwon this is a familiar situation. The Bluewings have won the FA Cup four times, a haul that is matched only by Pohang Steelers, but could win the trophy for a record fifth time. For a club struggling in the league, at least relatively to its illustrious past, winning the cup also means qualifying for the 2020 Asian Champions League. This could turn a disappointing season into a satisfying one even if there is a realization that the team has to improve.

It will be the first time that Daejeon has ever been even within a sniff of silverware. To defeat Suwon in the final would be possible if the game was one-legged. Over two legs however it is going to be extremely difficult. The one positive is that all the pressure is on Suwon. Just for Daejeon to get so far is an achievement. To get any further would be one of the most amazing stories in the long history of Korean soccer.

But just hours after the two teams were booking their places in the final, over in England Hwang Hee-chan was making headlines. Last month I wrote in these pages that the forward has a chance to make a name for himself at the home of Liverpool, the current holder of the UEFA Champions League.

That took time to happen as the English team showed its title-winning class by racing into a 3-0 lead against Hwang's Salzburg. The 50,000 plus fans inside the Anfield Stadium all sat back in the expectation of another win.

Hwang had other ideas however. Just before half-time he did what no other attacker in the world has managed this year: he made Virgil Van Dijk look foolish. Van Dijk is widely recognized as the best defender in the world and barely put a foot wrong as Liverpool became champion of Europe in June.

Hwang collected the ball in the area, quickly changed direction to leave Van Dijk going the wrong way. With the Dutchman on the floor, the South Korean then turned again to shoot home into the Liverpool goal. It was 3-1 then. In the second half, Hwang then created Salzburg's second for Japanese forward Takumi Minamino and it was 3-2. Shortly after, it was 3-3 and one of the greatest comebacks was on. Liverpool's star striker Mo Salah then scored to make it 4-3.

Salzburg lost the game but also won a lot of friends. Hwang, who also impressed in his first UEFA Champions League game against Genk of Belgium last month, has a lot of new admirers.




Hwang Hee-chan of the Salzburg in action during a recent game/ AP-Yonhap

By Jon Duerden

It has been another fascinating week for South Korean soccer. Two outsiders reached the semifinal of the Korea FA Cup. One was Hwaseong from the fourth tier of the pyramid in Korean soccer. Hwaseong defeated the mighty Suwon Samsung Bluewings 1-0 in the first leg and after 90 minutes of the second leg, the tie was all square 1-1.

Over the years, Yeom Ki-hun has stepped up time and time again to save Suwon and the veteran winger did just that, Wednesday. Yeom scored the goal that took the game into extra-time and then scored twice more to give Suwon a 3-0 lead on the evening and a 3-1 win on aggregate.

Suwon however will take on third tier Daejeon Korail in the two-legged final that takes place on Nov.6 and 10. Daejeon defeated top tier Sangju Sangmu in a penalty shootout after its semifinal ended 3-3 over two legs.

For Suwon this is a familiar situation. The Bluewings have won the FA Cup four times, a haul that is matched only by Pohang Steelers, but could win the trophy for a record fifth time. For a club struggling in the league, at least relatively to its illustrious past, winning the cup also means qualifying for the 2020 Asian Champions League. This could turn a disappointing season into a satisfying one even if there is a realization that the team has to improve.

It will be the first time that Daejeon has ever been even within a sniff of silverware. To defeat Suwon in the final would be possible if the game was one-legged. Over two legs however it is going to be extremely difficult. The one positive is that all the pressure is on Suwon. Just for Daejeon to get so far is an achievement. To get any further would be one of the most amazing stories in the long history of Korean soccer.

But just hours after the two teams were booking their places in the final, over in England Hwang Hee-chan was making headlines. Last month I wrote in these pages that the forward has a chance to make a name for himself at the home of Liverpool, the current holder of the UEFA Champions League.

That took time to happen as the English team showed its title-winning class by racing into a 3-0 lead against Hwang's Salzburg. The 50,000 plus fans inside the Anfield Stadium all sat back in the expectation of another win.

Hwang had other ideas however. Just before half-time he did what no other attacker in the world has managed this year: he made Virgil Van Dijk look foolish. Van Dijk is widely recognized as the best defender in the world and barely put a foot wrong as Liverpool became champion of Europe in June.

Hwang collected the ball in the area, quickly changed direction to leave Van Dijk going the wrong way. With the Dutchman on the floor, the South Korean then turned again to shoot home into the Liverpool goal. It was 3-1 then. In the second half, Hwang then created Salzburg's second for Japanese forward Takumi Minamino and it was 3-2. Shortly after, it was 3-3 and one of the greatest comebacks was on. Liverpool's star striker Mo Salah then scored to make it 4-3.

Salzburg lost the game but also won a lot of friends. Hwang, who also impressed in his first UEFA Champions League game against Genk of Belgium last month, has a lot of new admirers.






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