Top-tier clubs take all four spots in the FA Cup semifinals
The 2022 FA Cup is now a four-horse race between top K League 1 clubs Ulsan Hyundai, FC Seoul, Daegu FC and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
All four quarterfinals of the national tournament were held on Wednesday, when Jeonbuk beat the Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Ulsan beat K League 2 club Bucheon FC 1995, Seoul beat third-tier club Busan Transportation Corporation FC and Daegu beat the Pohang Steelers to advance to the semifinals. The four teams left standing guarantee that this year, a top-tier club will win the competition.
At Jeonju World Cup stadium, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors beat Suwon Samsung Bluewings 3-0 with goals from Gustavo, Kim Jin-kyu and Han Kyo-won.
This is Jeonbuk's second win against Suwon in seven days. Jeonbuk faced Suwon on June 22 in the domestic league, winning 2-1. Elimination means Suwon won't have a chance to extend their record as the winningest club in FA Cup history, with their five titles — 2002, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2019 — having to suffice for now.
Jeonbuk have now reached the semifinals of the FA Cup for the first time since 2020 and, if they can go the distance, have the chance of matching Suwon's record this year. Jeonbuk won the FA Cup in 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2020.
Jeonbuk's form also seems to be picking up. The defending K League champions recently started their climb up the league standings, winning their last two matches, 3-1 against top club Ulsan on June 19 and 2-1 against the Bluewings on June 22.
While Jeonbuk shut out the five-time FA Cup winners, K League 1 top club Ulsan Hyundai advanced to the semifinals after a close fight with K League 2 club Bucheon FC 1995 at home.
At Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium on Wednesday, Lee Eui-Hyeong of Bucheon opened the scoring in the 32nd minute.
Ulsan, desperate to create a chance, substituted in Georgian forward Valeri Qazaishvili, but still struggled to find a chance in the remainder of the first half and the whistle for half time finished 1-0.
With the start of the second half, Ulsan also substituted in Lee Chung-yong. Just two minutes into the second half, Kim Min-jun's cross found Bucheon defender Lee Yong-Hyeok and slipped into the Bucheon net, marking an own goal.
Ulsan and Bucheon were tied at 1-1 at the end of regular time.
With neither team able to score in the 30 minutes of extra time, the match was pushed to a penalty shootout.
Both teams scored all five goals, the match reached a sudden-death shootout, and it was that sixth shot that decided which team would advance to the semifinals.
Ulsan goalkeeper Jo Su-hyuk blocked Bucheon's sixth kicker Guk Tae-jeong's shot to win the penalty shootout 6-5, ending the two-hours-10-minute long match.
At Busan Asiad Stadium in Busan, FC Seoul beat third-tier club Busan Transportation Corporation FC 3-0 to reach the semifinals for the first time in six years, since the club's runner-up finish in 2016.
To reach the quarterfinals, K League 3 club Busan Transportation Corporation had earlier defeated defending champions Jeonnam Dragons after a penalty shootout in the round of 16 in May.
FC Seoul opened the scoring in the 30th minute of the first half, with Serbian Aleksandar Palocevic heading in Seoul's first goal. Park Dong-jin scored Seoul's second in the 46th minute and Kim Shin-jin adding the third in the 95th minute.
FC Seoul played their first ever finals in 2014, then won their first-ever FA Cup trophy in 2015, beating Incheon United 3-1.
At DGB Daegu Bank Park, Daegu FC beat the Pohang Steelers 3-2 to reach the FA Cup semifinals for the second consecutive year.
The Steelers opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a header from Heo Yong-jun, but Daegu struck back hard with three goals in a row from Hong Jeong-un, Zeca and Go Jae-hyeon, ending the first half up 3-1. Despite conceding another goal to Pohang's Heo in the 70th minute, Daegu was able to keep a one-goal lead until the end.
Daegu will be looking for their first FA Cup in four years. The last time they won tournament was in 2018, having finished last year's competition as runners-up after the Jeonnam became the first K League 2 club to lift the cup.
After losing the first leg of the final 1-0, the Dragons beat the K League 1 club 4-3 in the the second leg to tie the two-leg final 4-4 on aggregate and win on away goals.
Last year's dramatic fixture marked the first time in FA Cup history that the final was decided on the away goals rule. The seven goals scored during the second leg of the finals were the most scored in a single FA Cup final match. The previous record was set in Jeonnam's win against the Pohang Steelers in the first leg of the 2007 FA Cup final that ended 3-2.
The FA Cup is not part of the K League season, but is a knockout competition hosted by the Korea Football Association where the winner earns a ticket to the AFC Champions League next year.
The semifinals draw and dates are yet to be announced.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]