FC Seoul maintains lead as second half begins

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FC Seoul maintains lead as second half begins

The second-half of the K-League season got under way over the weekend with the top eight clubs from the first half battling each other the rest of the way for championship.

Three of the four Group A weekend matches were won by visiting teams and the only loser among the top five teams was the Suwon Bluewings, which fell 2-1 to the Pohang Steelers on Saturday in Pohang, North Gyeongsang.

Front-runner FC Seoul went off to a solid start with a 2-0 victory against sixth-place Busan I’Park on Sunday, maintaining a five-point lead over second-place Jeonbuk Motors, which defeated seventh-place Jeju United 1-0. With its 20th victory in 31 matches, Seoul has 67 points and is cruising toward it first league title in two years.

Under the split system, the league title will be determined only by the regular league records combining the first-half and second-half matches. The 13-match second half of the season features two separate round-robin competitions among 16 K-League teams, eight in top-tier Group A and the other eight in Group B.

“We will show how we can run away [from other teams],” Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo said after Sunday’s victory. “We will reach 70 points in the match against Pohang.”

Seoul is scheduled to play the Steelers on Saturday at World Cup Stadium in Sangam-dong, western Seoul.

The Ulsan Tigers jumped by one notch to third place after beating last-place Gyeongnam FC 2-1 on Saturday. With the defeat by Pohang, the Bluewings now lead the fifth-place Steelers by a goal.

Two of Seoul’s foreign players - Dejan Damjanovic and Molly - who led in goals in the first-half of the season, also displayed impressive firepower in Seoul’s Sunday victory. Damjanovic scored in the ninth minute on Molly’s cross and Molly captured his own chance in the 78th minute, connecting Choi Tae-uk’s pass from the right-hand end line. It was the 21st goal of the season for Damjanovic and the 15th for Molly.

Seoul was encouraged by its victory in Busan after three losses and six draws in away matches since October 29 of 2006.

Despite the absence of Lee Dong-gook and Enio Oliveira Junior, Jeonbuk’s two top scorers, at 14 and 13, respectively, Motors managed to beat Jeju thanks to newbie Leonardo, who scored on a free kick nine minutes into the game.

In Group B, Incheon United beat last-place Gangwon FC 2-1 on Sunday and maintained its group lead at 43 points. Gangwon is at 25 points, two lower than Sangju Sangmu Phoenix and three lower than Gwangju FC. One team in the Group B, with the worst records, will be relegated to the second division next season. Sangju Sangmu boycotted the second-half matches after the league decided to relegate the team regardless of records, citing a lack of international club qualifications.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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