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K League's top club moves closer to title; another change at bottom of table

All News 09:32 October 05, 2020

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 5 (Yonhap) -- Ulsan Hyundai FC inched closer to their first South Korean club football title in 15 years over the weekend, while there was yet another change at the bottom of the table in a tight race for survival.

Ulsan rallied for a 4-1 victory over Sangju Sangmu on Friday in their K League 1 match, with Jung Seung-hyun and Bjorn Johnsen each scoring two goals. They improved to 54 points.

Bjorn Johnsen of Ulsan Hyundai FC (C) celebrates his goal against Sangju Sangmu during a K League 1 match at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, 415 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Oct. 2, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The following day, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors failed to keep pace with Ulsan and lost to Pohang Steelers 1-0.

Stuck at 51 points, Jeonbuk now trail Ulsan by three points with three matches to play. Ulsan also hold a substantial edge in the first tiebreaker, goals scored, by 51 to 39. These two clubs will meet in their penultimate match of the season on Oct. 25. To pull off an unprecedented four-peat, Jeonbuk will have to win out and hope that Ulsan will falter down the stretch.

Ulsan, on the other hand, will only have to finish tied with Jeonbuk in points and the championship should be theirs; the substantial gap in the goals scored department is unlikely to be erased over only three matches.

Sangju opened the scoring just three minutes into the match before Ulsan's high-octane offense got to work. Jung picked up his two goals in a five-minute span just after the half-hour mark, while Johnsen came off the bench in the second half and scored in the 59th and 78th minute.

Jung Seung-hyun of Ulsan Hyundai FC (R) celebrates his goal against Sangju Sangmu during a K League 1 match at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, 415 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Oct. 2, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

It was the fifth time this season that Ulsan have netted at least four goals.

Jeonbuk needed to top Pohang to stay in the hunt, but Song Min-kyu netted the match's lone goal in the 59th, helping Pohang extend their undefeated run to seven.

With five defeats, Jeonbuk have already lost more in 24 matches this year than in 38 matches last year, when they dropped just three matches en route to their third consecutive championship.

Pohang goalkeeper Kang Hyeon-mu came up huge late in the first half to keep it a scoreless affair, as he turned aside shots from Takahiro Kunimoto and Kim Bo-kyung.

With his second-half header, Song now has 10 goals this season, tied with Jeonbuk's Han Kyo-won for most by a South Korean player.

Song Min-kyu of Pohang Steelers dribbles the ball during a K League 1 match against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 3, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Pohang climbed to 44 points but won't catch Ulsan with three matches to go.

At the bottom of the table, Busan IPark climbed out of last place and relegation spot after just one week, thanks to a 2-1 victory over FC Seoul on Sunday.

Lee Gyu-sung and Park Jong-woo had a goal apiece in Busan's first match since head coach Cho Duck-jae resigned Tuesday.

Busan jumped from 12th to 10th with 24 points, and Incheon United dropped back to the bottom of the table following a 1-0 loss to Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Sunday that kept them at 21 points.

Sandwiched between Busan and Incheon are Seongnam FC, who dropped to Gangwon FC 2-1 on Sunday for their fourth consecutive loss. They're at 22 points.

Park Jong-woo of Busan IPark takes a shot against FC Seoul during a K League 1 match at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

Only the last place club will be relegated to the K League 2 for 2021. Busan were just promoted from the second-tier league this season, and Seongnam spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons in the K League 2. Incheon have never dropped to the K League 2 and have just escaped the relegation in recent years.

Suwon, thanks to their third straight victory, rose a spot to eighth place but aren't out of the woods yet, as they are just six points clear of Incheon with three matches left.

The K League 1 will be off this week during the FIFA international break, and the season will resume on Oct. 16. The South Korean senior men's national team and the under-23 men's national team will play exhibition matches on Friday and again next Monday, with 23 K League players having been called up for each side.

Kim Tae-hwan of Suwon Samung Bluewings (L) embraces his head coach Park Kun-ha after scoring a goal against Incheon United during a K League 1 match at Incheon Football Stadium in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Oct. 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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