Jeonbuk edge out Ulsan to take 3-point lead at top of K League
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors took a sole lead at the top of the K League 1 on Sunday, beating top-spot rivals Ulsan Hyundai on Sunday with just three games remaining this season.
On Saturday, at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla, Jeonbuk and Ulsan went into the big showdown tied at the top of the league with 67 points each to face off for the last time this season.
Jeonbuk were the ones to run away with three points, taking a tight 3-2 victory after the two clubs exchanged goals for most of the match until Jeonbuk broke through in the last minute, marking their first win of the season against Ulsan.
Song Min-kyu of Jeonbuk opened the scoring 23 minutes into the match, but Ulsan leveled the score just 14 minutes later with Lim Jong-eun catching the ball from Lee Dong-gyeong’s corner kick. The whistle blew and the first half ended in a 1-1 tie.
Just 10 minutes into the second half, both clubs made changes as Moon Seon-min came on for Han Kyo-won and Modou Barrow came on for Song, while Ulsan's Lee Dong-jun came on for Lee Dong-gyeong. That must have been the boost that Jeonbuk needed, as Ryu Jae-moon found a quickly scored Jeonbuk’s second goal.
Just 14 minutes later, it was Lee Chung-yong to the rescue for Ulsan, as he leveled the score once again. Both clubs continued to hammer on the goal for the remainder of regular time, with Jeonbuk making their last change in the 89th minute, as Stanislav Iljutcenko came on for Gustavo.
It was that change that payed off once again, as Iljutcenko slotted in a last-gasp header to take the score to 3-2 and the whistle blew right away to lock in Jeonbuk’s first win of the season against Ulsan. Jeonbuk now sit at the top of the standings, with Ulsan three points behind in second.
Two other teams in the top half of the table took three points on Saturday. Jeju beat the Suwon Samsung Bluewings 2-0, and Daegu beat Suwon 2-1. Daegu sit at third place and Jeju at fourth. Suwon FC stepped down to sixth while the Bluewings took fifth place.
In the K League, the second-to-last team from the K League 1 competes in a playoff each year with a runner-up from the K League 2. If the K League 2 club wins, they are promoted and the K League 1 club relegated. The K League 2 club that competes in that match is determined through a series of earlier playoffs — this year that club will be Daejeon Hana Citizen.
On Sunday, Gangwon FC tied 1-1 with Incheon United and Incheon dropped down to eighth while Gangwon dropped to the second-to-last spot. If Gangwon stay in that position until the end of the season, they will be the ones to face Daejeon in the relegation-promotion playoff.
FC Seoul jumped up from last week’s 11th position to 9th position after a 3-0 victory against Seongnam, escaping the relegation-promotion playoff spot for now. Gwangju took a 2-1 win over the Pohang Steelers, but the three points were not enough to move them out of the guaranteed relegation spot.
The K League 1 will now pause for two weeks for an international break, as Korea will play two qualifiers for the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Korea will first take on the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, before flying to Qatar to face Iraq on Nov. 16.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]