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Gangwon FC snatch final spot in K League's top 6 with victory

All News 17:39 September 18, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) -- Gangwon FC grabbed the last spot available in the upper tier of the top South Korean football league with a narrow victory Sunday.

Kim Young-bin scored both of Gangwon's goals in their 2-1 win over Jeju United at Songam Sports Town in Chuncheon, some 85 kilometers east of Seoul, as the regular portion of the K League 1 season drew to a close with 33 matches in the books for the 12 teams.

Members of Gangwon FC celebrate clinching a place in Final A of the K League 1 following a 2-1 victory over Jeju United at Songam Sports Town in Chuncheon, 85 kilometers east of Seoul, on Sept. 18, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The top six ended up in "Final A," and the rest will be in "Final B." The teams will then play five more matches within their own group in the split phase to wrap up the year. Gangwon secured the sixth and final ticket to Final A and will be in the upper group for the first time in three years.

Prior to Sunday's slate of matches, the top five teams had already secured their places in Final A: Ulsan Hyundai FC, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Pohang Steelers, Incheon United and Jeju United.

Suwon FC entered the weekend holding down the sixth spot with 44 points, and Gangwon trailed by two points. Because of their substantial edge in the first tiebreak category, goals scored, Suwon FC only needed a draw Sunday against Ulsan to stay in sixth place. Gangwon, on the other hand, had to beat Jeju and get some help from Ulsan.

The script played out perfectly in Gangwon's favor. They held up their end of the bargain, and Ulsan blanked Suwon 2-0 behind goals by Leonardo and Lee Chung-yong.

Kim Young-bin of Gangwon FC (C) celebrates his goal against Jeju United during the clubs' K League 1 match at Songam Sports Town in Chuncheon, 85 kilometers east of Seoul, on Sept. 18, 2022, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Ulsan also helped themselves with this win, only their second in five matches in September. Ulsan stayed five points clear of second-place Jeonbuk, who edged out Suwon Samsung Bluewings 3-2 on Sunday to keep their title hope alive.

Jeonbuk are pursuing their sixth consecutive title, while Ulsan are trying to win their first league championship since 2005.

Among a trio of teams bringing up the rear, only Gimcheon Sangmu FC were victorious Sunday, thanks to a 1-0 win over Incheon United.

Gimcheon climbed a spot to 10th place at 34 points.

Suwon Samsung Bluewings also have 34 points, but they trail Gimcheon 39-35 in goals.

Lee Chung-yong of Ulsan Hyundai FC (R) celebrates his goal against Suwon FC during the clubs' K League 1 match at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, 310 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Sept. 18, 2022. (Yonhap)

Seongnam FC had a 1-1 draw with Pohang Steelers on Sunday but remained in last place at 25 points.

The worst K League 1 team at the end of the season will face direct relegation to the second-tier K League 2 for 2023.

The 10th- and 11th-ranked teams must survive playoffs against K League 2 foes to stay in the top competition next year.

The clubs in Final A are guaranteed to finish the season in the top six, regardless of their final point totals. The best team in Final B has occasionally finished with more points than the worst team in Final A, but that doesn't affect the end-of-season tables.

The two best teams in the K League 1 will qualify for next season's Asian Football Confederation Champions League, while the No. 3 team will book a spot in the playoff for the Asian tournament.

The K League has not yet finalized fixtures for the split phase. The league will look to wrap up the season by the end of October, since the FIFA World Cup in Qatar kicks off in mid-November.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors players celebrate a goal by Mo Barrow (C) during their K League 1 match against Suwon Samsung Bluewings at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, 35 kilometers south of Seoul, on Sept. 18, 2022, in this photo provided by Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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