Ulsan remain undefeated in early stage of K League season
Ulsan Hyundai remains undefeated as the K League enters its fifth round of games this weekend, leading the league by a single point with four matches played.
After drawing the opening game of the season against Gimcheon Sangmu on Feb. 20, Ulsan have won three games in a row; beating Seongnam 2-0, Suwon FC 2-1 and reigning champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-0.
Following the strong start, the challenge for Ulsan will, unsurprisingly, be holding on to that lead for the remaining 34 games of the season. Recent history works against the club in this regard: Last year Ulsan were on track for a phenomenal season and a shot at Korea's first ever treble, only to fall apart at the last minute and drop out of contention for all three titles.
Ulsan ended the 2021 K League season in second place, two points behind Jeonbuk for the second year in a row. Just a couple of months earlier, the club was knocked out of the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League after losing to the lower-ranked K League club Pohang Steelers and out of the FA Cup after losing the semifinals to K League 2 side Jeonnam Dragons.
This year Ulsan start with a clean slate and a chance of chasing all three titles again. With an early lead in the K League and a seat in the Round of 16 at the FA Cup at the end of May, Ulsan are already off to a strong start.
The Champions League is going to be more of a challenge this year, as the club will have to go through the qualifying playoffs to earn a spot in the tournament proper. Ulsan will face Thai club Port F.C. in a playoff at home on March 15, with the winner joining Group I at the Champions League.
Pohang Steelers sit in second place in the K League with two games played, with the newly-promoted Gimcheon rounding off the top three. Gangwon, Incheon United and FC Seoul round off the top six, while reigning champions Jeonbuk flounder in ninth with one win, one draw and two losses.
This weekend's action will start on Friday, when Ulsan take on FC Seoul and No. 10 Daegu face No. 11 Seongnam. On Saturday, seventh-place Jeju face Jeonbuk and No. 8 Suwon Samsung Bluewings play the Steelers. On Sunday, Incheon will take on Gimcheon and Gangwon will face Suwon FC.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]