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Jeonbuk closing in on Ulsan for K League lead

Sports 10:41 July 03, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, July 3 (Yonhap) -- The race is on in South Korean football.

Ulsan Hyundai FC's lead atop the K League 1 tables shrank to five points on Saturday, with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, five-time defending champions, breathing hard down Ulsan's neck.

Ulsan suffered a 2-0 loss to Pohang Steelers in their "East Coast Derby" on Saturday, while Jeonbuk rallied past Gimcheon Sangmu FC 2-1 the same day.

Kim Seung-dae of Pohang Steelers (L) celebrates with teammate Goh Young-jun after scoring a goal against Ulsan Hyundai FC during the clubs' K League 1 match at Pohang Steel Yard in Pohang, 380 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on July 2, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Ulsan still lead the competition with 40 points but Jeonbuk have closed in on them with 35 points. Ulsan were in first place by 10 points entering the international break at the end of May, and Jeonbuk were trailing Ulsan by 11 points in fourth place.

Then in a span of four matches, Ulsan have gone from being in cruise control to having to check their rearview mirror with trepidation.

Jeonbuk crushed Ulsan's title hopes in each of the past three seasons. Ulsan are trying to win their first title since 2005. While Jeonbuk own the league record for most titles with nine, Ulsan have had the most runner-up finishes in league history with 10.

Midfielder Kim Seung-dae netted both goals for Pohang, enjoying his first multi-goal effort in the K League in over seven years. Pohang climbed two spots to take third place.

Takahiro Kunimoto of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (top) and Myung Jun-jae of Gimcheon Sangmu FC battle for the ball during the clubs' K League 1 match at Gimcheon Stadium in Gimcheon, 230 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on July 2, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Jeonbuk allowed the opening goal to Gimcheon before Takahiro Kunimoto and Gustavo responded in the second half for the come-from-behind victory.

The victory extended Jeonbuk's undefeated streak to four matches, while Gimcheon remained winless in their past nine.

Also on Saturday, FC Seoul held Jeju United to a 2-2 draw after allowing the first two goals. Gerso Fernandes and Kim Beom-uo scored for Jeju in the opening 25 minutes, but Jung Han-min and Kang Seong-jin brought Seoul level.

Jeju slipped to fourth place. Pohang and Jeju both have 30 points, but Pohang hold the tiebreak edge in goals scored, 25-24.

Gangwon FC blanked Seongnam FC 2-0, on goals by Kim Young-bin and Jung Seung-yong, for their first winning streak and first away victory of the season.

Winless in their past five matches, Seongnam remained dead last with 12 points, six points behind Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

Manuel Palacios of Seongnam FC (C) is challenged by Seo Min-woo (L) and Jung Seung-yong of Gangwon FC during the clubs' K League 1 match at Tancheon Stadium in Seongnam, 20 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 2, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Teams will go right back at it, with three matches scheduled for Tuesday and three more for Wednesday.

Ulsan will host surging Gangwon FC at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Pohang will have an opportunity to put even more pressure on the top two clubs on Tuesday, when they visit lowly Seongnam FC.

Jeonbuk will be in the nation's capital at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to face FC Seoul.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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