Hwang Hee-chan plays first full match of season in tight loss to Man United
Wolverhampton Wanderers lost 1-0 to Manchester United in a close Premier League clash at Molineux in Wolverhampton, England on Saturday, with a second half goal from Marcus Rashford providing the only real excitement of the match.
More exciting for Korean fans, perhaps, was the presence of midfielder Hwang Hee-chan on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, the first complete league match of the season for the struggling Korean player.
Hwang started off looking threatening but seemed to slowly fade into the background as the match went on. He was moved from the wing into the center at half time, but was largely absent from any serious attacking opportunities.
That Hwang played the full 90 minutes is still an encouraging sign considering his season so far. He fell out of the starting XI months ago after a run of bad form saw him fail to score in the league since February.
Hwang started his last Wolves game before the World Cup break on Nov. 5, sat out the next game with a hamstring injury and made it back into the starting lineup last week.
Hwang’s long dry spell for Wolves has often seemed like a reflection on how he fits into the club, rather than his personal potential, especially because he has continued to perform well for Korea throughout the year.
Hwang is a Taeguk Warriors regular, appearing in almost every game as either a starter or a fresh pair of legs in the second half.
He had made four appearances for Korea this year before the World Cup, appearing for at least 60 minutes in every game he was available for and scoring two goals; against Chile on June 6 and Costa Rica on Sept. 23.
In Qatar, Hwang was only able to appear in two games as he struggled with a hamstring injury going into the tournament. He made those appearances count, coming on as a substitute against Portugal to score an injury time goal that carried Korea out of the group stage and into the round of 16.
New manager Julen Lopetegui, however, seems at least willing to give Hwang a chance, using him in all three of his games so far to varying levels of success.
Lopetugui won his first game in charge, a 2-0 Carabao Cup win over Gillingham, and followed that up with a 2-1 win on the road against Everton, Wolves’ first away victory this season.
Even the 1-0 loss to Man United is not an especially bad result for a club that, until last week, was wallowing in last place on the table. Lopetugui will have wanted more, but it’s inevitably going to take some time to overcome whatever has gone so horribly wrong at Wolves over the past year.
“I think the goals are coming after the good work,” Lopetugui said after the game on Saturday. “We have done good work focusing on the opposite goal, working as a team in a lot of moments of the game, so we did well to try to overcome a big team like Man United.
“You cannot get too down when you lose. I said after Everton that just because we had won, we were not in heaven and because we lost today, we are not in hell. We are balanced in thinking for the next match, knowing that the only way to improve is to work a lot, have belief and improve.”
Wolves and Hwang don’t have long to rest before their next game, as they take on Aston Villa on the road at Villa Park on Wednesday.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]