First-place Ulsan suffer 3-1 loss to old rivals Jeonbuk
Defending champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors romped over top club Ulsan Hyundai with a 3-1 win on Sunday as the fight for second place gets fierce.
The K League returned Friday after taking a two-week international break as the Korean national team played four June friendlies.
On Friday, there were high expectations for Gimcheon Sangmu as they faced Suwon FC at home after Kwon Chang-hoon and Cho Gue-sung both showed off their form in the final friendly, both scoring in a 4-1 win over Egypt on June 14.
However, Kwon and Cho were unable to continue that form into the domestic league.
Gimcheon had an ineffective match as they struggled to find a chance to shoot despite possessing 65 percent of the ball. Gimcheon had nine shots, only three of which were on target. Kwon had one shot and Cho had one shot on target but was unable to convert.
For Suwon FC, it was forward Lee Seung-woo, who joined his hometown club this season, that scored the sole goal of the match. After a quiet 80 minutes, Lee found his chance in the 81st, after Lars Veldwijk set him up perfectly from the right side of the post for Lee to head in.
With the win, Suwon FC moves one step up from their previous second-to-last position. 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.
On Sunday, all eyes were on the showdown at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan between top club Ulsan and defending champions Jeonbuk.
Ulsan looked shaky from the start, as a blunder led to a loose ball and almost a goal for the visitors in the first minute of the match. Though Jeonbuk failed to take advantage of that confusion, Modou Barrow of Jeonbuk found a chance in the 17th minute, taking Hong Jung-ho’s pass on the chest and then slotting it into the top right corner with his right foot.
Just five minutes later, Jeonbuk’s Paik Seung-ho and Takahiro Kunimoto were back at it. Paik found Kunimoto just outside of the box and passed the ball to the Japanese attacking midfielder, who dribbled it past the Ulsan defense to kick the ball into the top left corner with his left foot, beating Ulsan goalie Jo Hyeon-woo.
Kunimoto added another goal in the 28th minute, this time connecting a pass from Barrow then dribbling past the Ulsan defense to once again find the top left corner of the net.
Ulsan fought back but were only able to produce predictable shots, with the Jeonbuk defense easily taking care of the ball before it reached the post or goalie Song Bum-keun catching the ball.
Ulsan's chance came just five minutes before the whistle blew for half time. Jun Amano of Ulsan tried a shot from outside the box that Song seemed to catch initially but fumbled, allowing Um Won-sang to kick it into the net, scoring Ulsan's sole goal.
Unlike the first half, the second half was quiet for both teams and the whistle blew with the defending champions taking a 3-1 win over the top club.
Converting was clearly the biggest problem for Ulsan, as they had 64 percent of the ball, 18 shots and 14 shots on target — double Jeonbuk’s nine shots and seven shots on target.
This is the first time Jeonbuk has faced Ulsan this season. With the win, third-place Jeonbuk trail one point behind second place Jeju United, who also added three points over the weekend with a 2-1 win over Incheon United. Ulsan hold the top spot, now seven points ahead of the Islanders.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]