Jeonbuk rolls, but still faces an uphill battle

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Jeonbuk rolls, but still faces an uphill battle

The Jeonbuk Motors reduced FC Seoul’s lead to five points with a 3-0 rout of Busan I’Park on Sunday, but the remaining schedule may be too challenging for the defending champions to turn the table.

Lee Dong-gook scored two goals and Leonardo added one, helping Motors reach 76 points in the eighth match of the second-half of the season.

League-leading FC Seoul is at 81 points after a 1-1 draw in a metropolitan derby match with the Suwon Bluewings on Sunday.

There is no playoff this year in the K-League under the newly introduced split system where the top eight teams from the first half of the season play seven home and seven away matches for the title.

The Motors must play four of their six remaining games against top-five teams.

Their next opponents are the third-place Bluewings on Sunday followed by the fourth-place Pohang Steelers on Nov. 17 and fifth-place Ulan Hyundai on Nov. 21. A showdown with Seoul will follow on Nov. 25. All of the matches except Ulsan and sixth-place Jeju United on Dec. 2 will be away.

Seoul, on the other hand, plays four of the six remaining matches at home, and its first three opponents - Ulsan, eighth-place Gyeongnam FC and Jeju United - have not beaten Seoul this season. Seoul has been particularly dominant against Jeju United, with a 14-match undefeated run that includes nine victories.

After the Seoul-Jeonbuk match on Nov. 25, Seoul will take on the Steelers Nov. 29 and finish the season Dec. 2 against seventh-place I’Park.

In addition to the Nov. 25 match against Seoul, Jeonbuk is coming off three straight losses to the Steelers, most recently a 3-0 setback on Oct. 7. Motors also lost to the Steelers, 3-2, in the quarterfinal of the FA Cup held Aug. 1.

Motors coach Lee Heung-sil knows his team faces an uphill battle, but he refuses to give up hope.

“After the introduction of the split system, we treat every game as the final,” Lee told The Ilgan Sports, a daily affiliated with the JoongAng Ilbo.

If Motors defeats the Bluewings on Sunday, it would pull to within two points of Seoul. The league leaders play Ulsan on Nov. 15 after Ulsan finishes its Asian Football Confederation Champions League campaign on Saturday.

Motors are undefeated in 11 games against the Bluewings, including seven victories.

Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo said his team will not be complacent.

Seoul gained more confidence with Sunday’s draw against the Bluewings, which snapped a seven-game losing streak against the crosstown rivals that dated back to Aug. 28, 2010. Jung Jo-gook scored an equalizer in the 85th minute for Seoul.

The Bluewings settled for one point, but maintained third-place in the league at 67 points, two points ahead of the Steelers.

The three top teams in the K-League will get a berth in the 2013 AFC Champions League.

In lower-ranked Group B, Gangwon FC escaped relegation-bound last place with a 5-1 thrashing of the 12th-place Daejeon Citizen on Sunday. Gangwon has 38 points, two ahead of Gwangju FC.

The Sangju Sangmu Phoenix have been confirmed early to be relegated next season for failing to meet club qualification requirements.

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