Jeju downs Jeonbuk, heads to K-League finalJeju United managed to maintain its unbeaten streak at home as it downed defending champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in a K-League Championship semifinals match at Jeju World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju, 1-0, yesterday afternoon.
Jeju improved its record to 13 wins and eight draws on their home field this year and will play host to the regular season winners FC Seoul in the first of the two-leg, home-and-away championship series on Dec. 1. The second match will take place at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Dec. 5.
Jeju United manager Park Kyung-hoon and his players managed to pull off a gritty 1-0 win in the semifinals but have a tough task at hand as no second-seeded team has ever won the K-League Championship playoffs.
“It’s true that a second-seeded club has never won the tourney but I think that can work to our favor as it will serve as a motivational factor for me and my players,” Park said. “We want the title and we’re fully capable of winning.”
Yesterday’s semifinal match featured two veteran forwards in Lee Dong-gook (99 career goals) of Jeonbuk and Kim Eun-jung (97 career goals) of Jeju.
Neither forward managed to score but Kim did have an assist on the game’s lone goal from Brazilian forward Danilo Neco in the 75th minute.
Coming into the game, Jeonbuk thought it had the momentum on its side after defeating recent AFC Champions League winners Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in a second round match on Nov. 24. Jeju, on the other hand, was coming off a 20-day rest after the regular season.
The two sides had played to two draws in their head-to-head regular season matchups and fought a tightly contested game early on with both sides creating several quality chances. Park made the first substitute of the game by inserting Neco in the 44th minute for Lee Hyun-ho, who had been sluggish.
The Brazilian duo of Neco and Santos attacking from the wings proved to be effective and Jeonbuk players grew visibly tired as the game wore on.
U-23 national team members, Koo Ja-cheol and Hong Seong-ho, who were coming off a one-day rest after wrapping up the 2010 Asian Games tourney with a 4-3 win over Iran in the bronze medal game on Nov. 25, provided stability in the defense and midfield by playing the entire 90 minutes.
“It feels good to pull off a playoff win against Jeonbuk, whom we hadn’t beaten in the regular season,” Park said. “Coming off a lengthy rest, our players looked sluggish out of the gate but our offense came to life in the second half.
“Koo and Hong were fatigued from competing in the Asian Games but they played the entire game and were a big help.”
By Jason Kim [email@example.com]