Jeonbuk finally picks up a win as Ulsan continues dominant streakJeonbuk Hyundai Motors finally won a match in July, while Ulsan Hyundai FC stayed hot at the top of the K League 1 table over the weekend.
Jeonbuk blanked FC Seoul 3-0 at home Sunday, with new Brazilian forward Gustavo scoring in his debut.
It was the first win in July for the three-time defending champion, which moved to 29 points in second place.
It remains three points behind Ulsan, who routed Sangju Sangmu 5-1 on Saturday to reach 32 points for the season. Junior Negrao, the league's leading scorer, netted two goals to get to 17 in 13 matches this season. He has more goals himself than eight of the 12 K League 1 clubs in 2020.
The Brazilian marksman is on pace to set a new K League single-season record for goals. In 2012, Dejan Damjanovic scored 31 for FC Seoul, but he played in 42 matches out of a possible 44 then. Teams will only play 27 matches this season — cut short by the coronavirus pandemic — and Junior Negrao could still surpass 31 goals.
The Pohang Steelers overtook Sangju for third place following a 1-1 draw with Incheon United on Sunday. Both Pohang and Sangju have 24 points apiece, but Pohang is ahead on goals scored, 26-15.
Daegu FC tried to keep pace with the top four by beating Busan IPark 3-0 on Sunday, snapping its two-match losing streak. Daegu now has 22 points in fifth place.
For Jeonbuk, Gustavo, a former Corinthians forward, and another new arrival, ex-Swansea City winger Mo Barrow, began Sunday's match on the bench. And Jeonbuk didn't need their services early on, as Han Kyo-won gave the team the lead just 12 minutes in with his team-high sixth goal of the season.
Lee Seung-gi doubled Jeonbuk's lead in the 44th minute. With the two-goal cushion, Jeonbuk summoned Gustavo to action in the second half.
He earned his first K League yellow card in the 62nd and then scored his first Korean goal the very next minute with a header.
Jeonbuk beat a team that it was supposed to beat. Ulsan was more dominant against an opponent that had conceded just one goal in their previous six matches.
Sangju opened the scoring in the third minute thanks to Kang Sang-woo's sixth of the season. But then Kim In-sung tied it up 11 minutes later, and Junior Negrao scored the go-ahead marker three minutes later.
Ulsan never looked back, with Junior Negrao picking up his second goal of the match in the 44th for a 3-1 advantage.
Any hopes of a Sangju rally were dashed just before the hour mark, when defender Kim Jin-hyuk ended up poking a cross by Ulsan player Seol Yung-woo into his own net.
Sangju went down a man after Park Byung-hyun's second yellow of the match in the 84th, and Lee Dong-geong rounded out the scoring for Ulsan three minutes later.
Ulsan has won both of its two meetings with Sangju this season by a combined score of 9-1.
Elsewhere in the league, Suwon Samsung Bluewings spoiled Gwangju FC's unveiling of its new home, Gwangju Football Stadium, with a 1-0 victory on Saturday. It was also Suwon's first victory under interim boss Joo Seung-jin.
Seongnam FC and Gangwon FC played to a scoreless draw on the same day.
With nine matches left before the teams are divided into two tiers for the final stretch, the top five have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Gangwon FC, in sixth place, sits seven points back of Daegu. Gangwon is closer to 11th than they are to fifth.
With the start of the season pushed back by more than two months due to the coronavirus outbreak, the 2020 K League 1 season will feature 27 matches, 11 fewer than usual. The 12 teams will enter the "split" phase after 22 matches, with the top six making up "Final A" and the rest falling into "Final B." Once split up, teams will play five matches within their groups to determine the final standings.
Ulsan and Jeonbuk are trying to make this a two-horse race at the top. At the opposite end, Incheon United is still searching for its first win of 2020. It has five draws and eight losses to date, though it has shown some signs of life lately with three consecutive draws.
This was also the final week of action without fans in the stands. Starting with three matches Saturday, supporters will now be able to watch K League football in person.
The government gave its final go-ahead to sports teams to open stadiums back up for fans this past Friday. In the early phase of the reopening during the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of fans will be capped at 10 percent of the capacity, in order to prevent coronavirus infections.
Under health and safety protocols, fans must go through temperature checks at the gates. Once inside the stadium, they will be required to sit apart from one another, and eating and drinking alcoholic beverages will be prohibited.