“And then there were three”.
With the final set of fixtures in the Relegation Group this weekend we have three teams all still battling to avoid the playoffs while last orders were finally served on Jeonnam Dragons who will be playing K-League Two games next year as their relegation was confirmed last Saturday. Jeonnam fell 2-1 at home to Daegu to seal their fate while Seoul also lost at home to Incheon United courtesy of an early Han Suk-jong strike. As full-time was ringing out in Sangju at 6pm on Saturday it would signal the 3rd home defeat of the weekend as the hosts were unable to capitalize on that earlier Seoul defeat.
Just as Seoul fans thought they had turned a corner with last week’s victory over Jeonnam they ran into a brick wall and out of ideas against a dogged and determined Incheon team in the final Gyeongin Derby of the year. Despite throwing everything at their opponents they came up short time and time again as poor choices in the final third were to prove their downfall in an all too familiar story for the Suhoshin. A meager forty goals in thirty-seven games only goes to highlight how shot-shy the capital team have become this season and despite the best efforts of Choi Yong-soo to turn that around it’ll take more than just midweek training drills to solve their penalty box perils. They go into the final match of the season still only requiring a point to secure survival and there must have been huge sighs of relief all over FC Seoul HQ as news of Sangju’s defeat to Gangwon filtered through as surely the prospect of them having to win to avoid the playoffs would not have been met with much optimism. Next up is Sangju away
Incheon’s victory over Seoul on a bitter cold afternoon last Saturday was their third victory in a row and has propelled them above Sangju in the table with 2pts separating the teams. They were good value for their win at Seoul as coach Jorn Andersen got his tactics and team selection (albeit some were forced) absolutely spot on. The former North Korean National team coach has revitalized The Durumi and has instilled a sense of belief which has resulted in some of the league’s best attacking play. Against Seoul they created enough chances in the 2nd half to win the game by a couple of goals and you get the feeling that with Jeonnam coming to town with nothing to play for that they might just take more of those chances this time around. Due to their superior goal difference a point should be enough for them to guarantee top-table football next year and hopefully convince the board to extend Andersen’s contract. Next up is Jeonnam at home
Last time out the Army had the chance to put themselves in the driving seat when it came to avoiding the playoffs but unfortunately, not for the first time either, they got a sorry case of stage fright and froze as they struggled yet again to find the net. They sit 3pts behind Seoul but the fact that they have the same “goals for” as their rivals gives them a glimmer of hope no matter how slight it might seem. Only 290 fans turned up at Sangju Stadium to witness Gangwon steal all 3pts, rumour has it that Seoul are laying on free buses to try and bolster their support for what could be the biggest game of the last couple of years.The Army will need players like Yoon Bitgaram and Park Yong-ji to step up to the plate when Seoul come to town if they are to have any chance of avoiding a potential re-match with Busan I-Park over the next couple of weeks. It will almost certainly be a tense affair and given it’s been tough to split the two teams this year you get the feeling this could go all the way to the wire. Next up is Seoul at home