After a two week break that reminded me of the withdrawal scenes in the original Trainspotting movie it’s time for the K-League to return albeit, rather unexpectedly, minus some of it’s younger sons who are still in Poland with the U20 World Cup squad getting ready for the final. There were victories last time out for the top four with six points now separating Daegu and Sangju who lost away from home to 10-men Jeonbuk Hyundai in a fiery and passionate encounter as the hosts seemed to channel their frustration and anger at a Kim Jin-su red card. There were no major changes in the bottom half as Seongnam, Incheon, and Bluewings all drew while Gyeongnam and Jeju both lost. Gangwon leapfrogged Pohang into 6th thanks to Daegu winning 2-0 in The Steelyard courtesy of two late goals.
Both the top and bottom of the table continue to be tighter than a Scotsman in a Soju tent with Jeonbuk and Ulsan separated only by ‘goals for’ and 12th and 8th separated by a measly 5pts. With Jeonbuk and Ulsan playing bottom six clubs and Seongnam and Gyeongnam clashing you have to imagine that the bottom of the table at least will see some real movement. Ulsan host Pohang having returned to winning, and scoring ways, against Jeju before the international break. Goals from Mix and Lee Dong-gyeong had effectively killed the game before the half-time whistle and, as is becoming the norm these days, we had a couple of goals in ‘time added on’ as first Aguilar and then Kim Bo-Kyung scored as the game finished 3-1 and left Ulsan top of the table. Pohang have lost their last two matches shipping five goals in the process and are one of the most unpredictable teams in the league. They defeated Ulsan 2-1 last time out and have a decent record at the Munsu Football Stadium but it would take the most optimistic of Steeler fans to think they can get another result this time round.
Joint-top Jeonbuk have a jaunt North to Incheon for their game and are undefeated since losing to Ulsan in mid-May. They have scored 12 goals in the four games since that defeat and Jose Morais certainly has them looking like they are capable of scoring every time they venture up the pitch. They dug deep against Sangju and fully deserved the win, Lee Dong-gook’s 200th goal for club being the icing on the cake. Moon Seon-min was yet again on the scoresheet and he and The Wookie are forging a partnership that should terrify most K1 defences. Incheon also found themselves down to 10 men in a rather tepid affair at Seongnam Sports Complex in a match that really could have gotten football stopped as both teams played out their second 0-0 of the season. Incheon occupy the bottom spot on ‘goals for’, or more accurately a lack of ‘goals for’, and need to start dragging results from somewhere and quick if they are to avoid the fate they so frequently flirt with.
Seongnam and Gyeongnam are two teams desperately looking for something positive after disastrous runs which leave their fans having to go all the way back to April and March respectively for the last time 3pts were secured. They have collectively scored less goals than Jeonbuk and must go to bed at night thanking their lucky stars that Jeju have under-performed so much this season. Last time out Seongnam drew 1-1 with Incheon United while Gyeongnam lost 2-1 at home to Seoul. A victory would open up a 7pt gap for Seongnam while defeat would send them spiraling into the relegation battle.
The final game on Saturday sees everyone’s favourite “2nd team” Daegu host Gangwon as they continue their pursuit of another Asian Champions League spot next year. They got back to winning ways last weekend against Pohang and have put some light between themselves and the rest of the top 6. Gangwon came away from The Big Bird with a share of the points but must be disappointed after being in front most of the game. Daegu have won the last six clashes between the sides and on current form you would have to imagine they’ll at least keep the unbeaten run going if not add a 7th win.
There are only two matches on the Sunday as Sangju play host to Jeju in the match that you would volunteer to babysit in order to miss while FC Seoul welcome Suwon Bluewings to town in the “used to be Supermatch”. Seoul had Park Chu-young to thank for all 3pts last time out and wether you believe in the ‘Choi factor’ or not they are getting results in matches that they would have drawn or lost last year. They still look a bit away from mounting a serious challenge to Jeonbuk and Ulsan but if Persic and Osmar keep putting in ‘top-drawer’ performances you never know. Bluewings came form a goal behind to earn a draw at home to Gangwon but they still seem like a team of individuals unable to raise their game for the big matches. Bluewings haven’t won a K-League “Supermatch” since way back in 2015 and given how different Seoul look this year I imagine that to continue.
Predictions for all the games are below…