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K League clubs at top, near bottom find more breathing room

Sports 09:57 August 16, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Aug. 16 (Yonhap) -- With matches from the three-day weekend in the books in South Korean football, both a team pursuing an elusive title and another trying to avoid relegation next year have some much-needed breathing room.

Ulsan Hyundai FC defeated reeling Daegu FC 4-0 on Saturday, with goals by four different foreign players. The list included their recent acquisition from Hungary, Martin Adam, with his first in the K League 1. Ulsan are going after their first title since 2005.

Later that same evening, Jeonbuk Hyundai FC, trying to chase down Ulsan for their sixth consecutive championship, fell to Incheon United 3-1. It was Jeonbuk's first loss to Incheon since March 2018.

Go Myeog-seok of Suwon Samsung Bluewings (R) celebrates his goal against Seongnam FC during the clubs' K League 1 match at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, about 35 kilometers south of Seoul, on Aug. 14, 2022. (Yonhap)

Ulsan now lead Jeonbuk 55-49 but have played one fewer match with 26. Ulsan are undefeated in seven matches, with four victories and three draws.

Some 24 hours after losing to Ulsan, Daegu FC head coach Alexandre Gama resigned before even completing his first season on the bench. His top assistant, Choi Won-kwon, will be the caretaker boss until Daegu FC find a full-time replacement for Gama.

In a meeting of the two worst teams Sunday, Suwon Samsung Bluewings routed last-place Seongnam FC 4-1.

Suwon Samsung had never scored more than two goals in a game this season until that outburst. They are still the K League 1's lowest-scoring club with 23 goals in 26 matches.

Seongnam stayed dead last in 12th place with 18 points.

Following that victory, Suwon Samsung traded places with Gimcheon Sangmu FC to temporarily climb to 10th place with 27 points. Gimcheon had a chance return to 10th place Monday, but instead they lost to FC Seoul 2-1.

Um Won-sang of Ulsan Hyundai FC (L) collides with Kim Hee-seung of Daegu FC during the clubs' K League 1 match at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, about 310 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Aug. 13, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Aleksandar Palocevic had a goal and an assist for FC Seoul, as they remained in eighth place.

Gimcheon, now in 11th place with 26 points, have just one victory in their past half-dozen games. Because their roster is made up of conscripted players fulfilling their mandatory military service, Gimcheon's performance tends to fluctuate depending on the talent level of players newly joining the armed forces and those who are discharged. This season, they are about to lose forward Cho Gue-sung, who is first on the team and third in the league with 13 goals, as he returns to his original team, Jeonbuk.

At the end of the season, the worst team in the K League 1 will be automatically relegated to the K League 2 for 2023. The 11th-ranked team from the top league will face the second-best team from the K League 2 in a promotion-relegation playoff.

Another promotion-relegation playoff will pit the 10th-ranked team from the K League 1 against the winner of a K League 2 playoff winner.

Members of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors react to their 3-1 loss to Incheon United in a K League 1 match at Incheon Football Stadium in Incheon, around 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Aug. 13, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Elsewhere in the K League 1, Jeju United blanked Pohang Steelers 5-0 on Sunday for their second straight win. At 40 points, they climbed to fourth place.

Incheon United also have 40 points, but Jeju lead them in the goals scored department, 36-34.

Pohang had their winning streak snapped at two matches but remained in third place.

Jeju striker Joo Min-kyu scored his 14th goal of the season in the victory to move into a tie for first place with Stefan Mugosa, who had 14 goals for Incheon before departing for the Japanese club Vissel Kobe in June. Joo also led the K League 1 in goals last year and will try to become the first back-to-back scoring champion since Dejan Damjanovic from 2011 to 2013.

On Monday, Suwon FC defeated Gangwon FC 3-2 to stay in sixth place and snap Gangwon's home winning streak at four. Suwon FC's sixth-year defender Park Min-gyu scored his first career goal in the 67th minute.

Park Min-gyu of Suwon FC celebrates his goal against Gangwon FC during the clubs' K League 1 match at Songam Sports Town in Chuncheon, 75 kilometers northeast of Seoul, on Aug. 15, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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