Preview: Daejeon Hana Citizen vs Gangwon FC - Three points, not revenge

Daejeon Hana Citizen make their long-awaited return to the top flight this Sunday against Gangwon FC in Round 1 of the 2023 Hana 1Q K League 1 campaign. Daejeon have spent seven seasons in the second tier and go up against a side they have history with having suffered an agonising 4-2 aggregate loss in the 2021 promotion-relegation playoff final. 


Sunday's match may well be dubbed the 'ball boy derby' but is about three points and nothing else. It's not about revenge for Daejeon Hana Citizen, rather it's about getting off to a good start and doing something they haven't done since 2011 - win a K League 1 season opener. 

But there is history between these two teams. On a bright but bitterly cold Gangneung December afternoon in 2021, Daejeon lost 4-1 to Gangwon in the second leg of the playoff but the match became shrouded in controversy after the host's ball boys appeared to be wasting time. The club were subsequently fined 30 million won for the antics and then-CEO Lee Young-pyo issued an apology. 

Daejeon's goalkeeper from that match, Kim Dong-jun, also alleged that Gangwon had cancelled several practice pitches booked under Daejeon's name and only when one was booked under a fake name were they able to train in the area.

Opening Day Records

In terms of opening-day records, Daejeon have won three and lost seven since the year 2013. Their last two K League 1 season openers ended in defeat, though - 3-1 at home to Jeonbuk in 2013 and 1-0 away to Busan in 2015. In fact, their last win on opening day in the top tier goes back to 2011, winning 2-1 away to Ulsan. Last year, Daejeon sat out the first round of K League 2 but their season opener in Round 2 was a 2-0 loss to Gwangju.

For Gangwon, it’s four wins, one draw, and five losses since 2013. Last season, Gangwon began with a 2-0 home win over Seongnam.


Daejeon Hana Citizen's pre-season has, largely, been kept under wraps. There was a warm weather training camp in Thailand at the beginning of January where it was mostly fitness work, before returning to Korea and Goeje Island to work on tactics. Daejeon manager Lee Min-sung, then, has kept his cards close to his chest heading into the opening match. And who can blame him as he has been outfoxed tactically by Choi Yong-soo before, one of the wiliest there is in K League.

Gangwon, meanwhile, managed a 4-1 win over Gyeongnam but little else is known about the club's pre-season friendlies. 

Team News

Daejeon's Brazilian winger Leandro is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season. He could be replaced by Shin Sang-eun who declared in a recent YouTube video that he had scored the most goals during pre-season. 

Left back Min Jun-young is an injury doubt while attacking midfielder Bae Jun-ho, left back Bae Seo-joon, and highly-rated 19-year-old midfielder Kim Kyeong-hwan are currently with the South Korea U20 squad for the AFC U20 Asian Cup which starts next week. Daejeon, therefore, are exempt from the U22 rule.

Oh Jae-suk, Kim Hyeon-woo, Tiago Orobo, and Yu Kang-hyun are expected to make their debuts in what is likely to be a 3-5-2. Recent signing Anton Kryvotsyuk has only been with the club for about 10 days and so is unlikely to start.

Daejeon's winter signings (L-R) Kim Hyeon-woo, Lim Yoo-seok, Tiago Orobo, Yu Kang-hyun, Oh Jae-suk

For Gangwon, Lee Seung-won is with the Korea U20 squad and so Choi Yong-soo will not be required to field a U22 player in his starting lineup. There are expected debuts for former Daejeon midfielder Ikromjon Alibaev, centre back Kim Woo-seok, and full back Yoo In-soo. Meanwhile, striker Dino Islamović is back fit after missing most of last season with an Achilles injury but Choi has said that the player is only "60% fit" and also confirmed that Han Kook-young and Kang Ji-hoon are in training as normal - both had been long-term absentees.

Head to head

There have been 25 previous K League meetings between the two teams with Daejeon winning 13, Gangwon eight, and four draws. In terms of goals, Daejeon lead with 41 to Gangwon's 37. At home, Daejeon have won six of the 12 encounters, losing four, and with two draws.

The most recent encounters came in the 2021 promotion-relegation playoff final with Daejeon emerging as winners of the first leg 1-0; former Gangwon players Masatoshi Ishida and Lee Hyun-sik combined for the game's only goal. But, in the second leg a few days later, Daejeon collapsed and lost 4-1, despite going 1-0 yp inside 13 minutes with a thunderbolt from right back Lee Jong-hyeon. 

A Lee Ji-sol own goal made it 1-1 which sparked a frenzied five-minute spell during which Gangwon added another two goals, first Lim Chae-min then Han Kook-young. Hwang Min-ki then made it 4-1 in time added on.

The last league meetings date back to 2016 in K League 2, Daejeon picked up three wins and Gangwon just one. The last time the Purples and the Bears squared off in K League 1 was in 2013 when Daejeon won twice, Gangwon once, and one match ended in a draw.


What to Watch

There will be a number of interesting battles across the whole park on Sunday. Daejeon's full backs Seo Young-jae and likely debutant Oh Jae-suk and how they contain Gangwon's wide players will be something to keep an eye on; Yang Hyun-jun and Kim Dae-won ran riot last season with 24 goals and 17 assists between them. 

But how Daejeon acquit themselves will also be something to take note of as, with a bumper crowd expected at Purple Arena, fans will be expecting a result and performance. Daejeon have spent seven seasons outside the top flight and although the squad is strong and capable of putting the noses of the big boys out of joint, these first few matches may come down to temperament and how the players handle the occasion. In addition, Ikromjon Alibaev may feel like he has a point to prove against his former club.

There are several players with K League 1 experience such as Lee Chang-geun (149 apps), Ju Se-jong (148 apps), Lee Jin-hyun (58 apps), Lee Hyun-sik (79 apps), Kim Young-wook (233 apps), and Gong Min-hyun (45 apps), for example, will be expected to guide Daejeon's other, less experienced players through matches.

Where to Watch

Watch the match live on here

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