After narrow wins, K League’s Sangju hoping for goal barrage

July 9, 2020

Sangju Sangmu will take victories in any shape or form, but after winning four straight K League 1 matches by the identical scores of 1-0, they would like to score a few more goals just about now.

The opportunity to do just that will come Saturday against the league’s worst team, Incheon United. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Incheon Football Stadium in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul.

Sangju, a club made up of conscripted players serving their military duty, have been the biggest overachievers so far this season. With those four consecutive victories, they sit in third place with 20 points, behind only the two giants of the league, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (24) and Ulsan Hyundai FC (23).

This file photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League on May 12, 2020, shows Kim Tae-wan, head coach of the K League 1 club Sangju Sangmu, during a match against Ulsan Hyundai FC at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, 415 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
This file photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League on May 28, 2020, shows Kang Sang-woo of Sangju Sangmu. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
In this file photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League on May 16, 2020, Sangju Sangmu players celebrate their 2-0 victory over Gangwon FC in their K League 1 match at Sangju Civic Stadium in Sangju, 270 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This file photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League on May 12, 2020, shows Kim Tae-wan, head coach of the K League 1 club Sangju Sangmu, during a match against Ulsan Hyundai FC at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, 415 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

They have a goal difference of plus-1, with 11 goals scored and 10 conceded. That seems to suggest Sangju have been rather lucky to be so high up in the table, though their players would point to their recent string of victories and say they have been a resilient bunch.

In their last four 1-0 victories, Sangju scored all of the winning goals in the second half, three of them coming in the last 15 minutes of the match.

Those narrow wins have kept head coach Kim Tae-wan on the edge of his seat, and he said Thursday he’d like to breathe a bit easier this time around.

“It’d be nice if we can win by multiple goals,” Kim said. “Since we played last Sunday and we’ll be back playing Saturday, the focus of our preparation has been on recovery.”

As for Sangju’s streak of scoring late goals, Kim said, “I think our players have competed with a better focus than opponents. This is a very tight team, and I think our sum is greater than our parts.”

Incheon are still looking for their first win of the season. They’ve dropped eight matches in a row after drawing their first two to open the season. Kim said his players will have to guard against overconfidence.

“It doesn’t matter if our opponents have lost eight straight or won eight straight. Our own mindset and approach are more important,” the coach said. “Incheon looked to be more aggressive in their last match than earlier ones, and we have to be prepared for that.”

Kang Sang-woo, who has scored in each of his past two matches, will be the key player on Saturday, Kim added.

“He’s such a hard-working player, and he’s always having fun,” Kim said. “He always gives his best no matter what the role is, and he’s playing with a lot of confidence.”

The coach would also like to see his 21-year-old forward Oh Se-hun elevate his game. He missed the early portion of the season after a team van carrying him and other teammates got into a minor accident. Oh netted two goals in his season debut on June 13 but has been held off the scoresheet since.

“He needs to regain his confidence,” Kim said. “I hope he can grow into a player who will strike fear into opposing defense and score some goals.”

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