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Teams eyeing top-3 finish in K League set for 3rd duel of season

All News 08:28 August 19, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Yonhap) -- Two clubs in battle for third place in South Korean football and a ticket to the top continental tournament will be in for their third showdown of the season on the weekend.

Pohang Steelers, currently occupying the third spot in the K League 1 tables, will host Incheon United at 6 p.m. Saturday at Pohang Steel Yard in Pohang, about 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Through 26 matches, Pohang have collected 43 points, three ahead of Jeju United and Incheon.

In this May 21, 2022, file photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League, Kim Do-hyeok of Incheon United (L) and Shin Kwang-hoon of Pohang Steelers chase the ball during the clubs' K League 1 match at Pohang Steel Yard in Pohang, about 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

In this May 21, 2022, file photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League, Kim Do-hyeok of Incheon United (L) and Shin Kwang-hoon of Pohang Steelers chase the ball during the clubs' K League 1 match at Pohang Steel Yard in Pohang, about 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Jeju and Incheon are tied at 40 points, but Jeju are in fourth thanks to their tiebreak edge in goals, 36-34.

Incheon trail Pohang by only one goal, meaning that a 2-0 victory, combined with a Jeju loss to Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Saturday, will catapult Incheon to third place.

Each season, the third-place team from the K League 1 earns a spot in the qualifying playoff for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League for the following season. Incheon have never played in the annual tournament.

Pohang opened August with consecutive victories before suffering a 5-0 blowout against Jeju on Sunday, their worst loss of 2022.

But if Steelers can pick up the pieces in time and fend off Incheon, they will also have a shot at cracking the top two.

Ulsan Hyundai FC players celebrate their 4-0 victory over Daegu FC in a K League 1 match in front of their supporters at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Aug. 13, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Ulsan Hyundai FC players celebrate their 4-0 victory over Daegu FC in a K League 1 match in front of their supporters at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Aug. 13, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors are in second place at 49 points, but Pohang have a game in hand. Pohang have also scored one more goal than Jeonbuk so far.

Pohang took the first two meetings against Incheon this season: a 1-0 victory in March and a 2-0 win in May.

Incheon will be no pushover, though. After recording just one win in five games in July, they have had two wins and a draw so far in August. One of those victories was a 3-1, come-from-behind thriller over Jeonbuk, and Incheon will now go for their first three-game winning streak of 2022.

Incheon's struggles in July had a lot to do with the midseason departure of their leading scorer, Stefan Mugosa. The Montenegrin striker had been tops in the K League 1 with 14 goals when he signed with Vissel Kobe of Japan in late June.

Ryu Seung-woo of Suwon Samsung Bluewings (L) and Kim Ji-soo of Seongnam FC vie for the ball during the clubs' K League 1 match at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, around 35 kilometers south of Seoul, on Aug. 14, 2022. (Yonhap)

Ryu Seung-woo of Suwon Samsung Bluewings (L) and Kim Ji-soo of Seongnam FC vie for the ball during the clubs' K League 1 match at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, around 35 kilometers south of Seoul, on Aug. 14, 2022. (Yonhap)

Incheon did not score in their first two matches without Mugosa. However, the man they acquired to fill the scoring void, Hernandes Rodrigues, has been a boon to the offense.

In six matches since arriving in Incheon, the new Brazilian attacker has recorded three goals and four assists.

Elsewhere in the K League 1, first-place Ulsan Hyundai FC will visit Gimcheon Sangmu FC at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Undefeated in their past seven, Ulsan are one win shy of becoming the first K League club with 600 victories.

Gimcheon, with only two wins in their past 16 games, have fallen to 11th place among 12 teams, in danger of relegation to the K League 2 just a season after earning promotion from the second division.

Seongnam FC are the only club below Gimcheon, with 18 points. They visit FC Seoul at 6 p.m. Sunday, and their time is running out to claw out of the league cellar.

After the weekend, teams will each have 11 matches left on the season.

Aleksandar Palocevic of FC Seoul (C) celebrates his goal against Gimcheon Sangmu FC during the clubs' K League 1 match at Gimcheon Stadium in Gimcheon, almost 190 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Aug. 15, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Aleksandar Palocevic of FC Seoul (C) celebrates his goal against Gimcheon Sangmu FC during the clubs' K League 1 match at Gimcheon Stadium in Gimcheon, almost 190 kilometers southeast 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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