Many a neutral (or non-Jeonbuk fan) has lamented the lack of any real title challenge in the K-League One of late and have dreamed of a repeat of the dramatic scenes of 2013 as Pohang clinched the title in the last minute. Last weekend saw those dreams ebb ever closer to becoming reality as nothing could separate Jeonbuk and Ulsan as they played out a 1-1 draw in Jeonju. FC Seoul took advantage of that stalemate as they bounced back from defeat in Jeju by easily defeating Incheon United at Seoul World Cup Stadium. In the bottom half of the table there was more misery for both Gyeongnam and Seongnam as they lost to Gangwon and Daegu respectively. Suwon Bluewings extended their purple patch by defeating Sangju 2-0 with Adam Taggart scoring yet again for the visitors.
There are three games being played on Saturday and it’s hard to imagine footballing eyes being cast anywhere else other than Seoul World Cup Stadium as the Capital club welcome Champions Jeonbuk to town as 3rd host 1st in a clash that will surely answer whether Seoul have title potential or not. Seoul warmed up for the clash by easily beating bottom placed Incehon in a match which seen the Incheon fans protest angrily at full-time as their club lurches ever closer to relegation. Seoul opened the scoring on the stroke of halt-time through Ko Kwang-min before a simply fantastic strike by Park Chu-young sealed the win as he fired home a shot from the edge of the box, it was a brilliant strike from a player who always seems to rise to the occasion under Choi Yong-soo. This week though, they face a much sterner task as table-toppers Jeonbuk make their way North in search of a vital win in the title race. They took the lead against Ulsan last weekend courtesy of a 10th minute Lee Dong-gook penalty but were unable to kill their opponents off and Joo Min-kyu made them pay for their wastefulness with a 34th minute equalizer. Jeonbuk haven’t lost to Seoul for 2yrs winning five of the last six encounters. This Seoul team, however, do have something about them and could prove to be as tough as Ulsan to overcome.
If the match in Seoul is huge for the top of the table then the game taking place in Changwon is equally huge at the bottom of the table as Gyeongnam and Jeju play each other both hoping for that vital win that keeps their head above water in the relegation battle. Gyeongnam lost away to Gangwon last Friday night despite taking a first half lead through Kim Jong-jin. They were unable to survive a 2nd half onslaught though and finally conceded two goals in the 75th and 78th minutes to fall to a 2-1 defeat. Jeju also took the lead in their match against Pohang on the Saturday, Yun Il-lok on the scoresheet again, but like Gyeongnam they were unable to hold on and the match finished 1-1. Jeju won the last meeting between the teams back in April and do appear to be the team with the momentum going into this one. One thing is for sure, there is a long way to go in the playoff/relegation battle and no matter who emerges victorious this weekend will still be sleeping with one eye open for the foreseeable future.
The final game on Saturday sees Pohang Steelers and Incheon clash in a game which, on paper, can only end in a home win.
The first game on Sunday is 2nd placed Ulsan vs a resurgent Gangwon as both teams will hope to make the most of whatever result comes out of the Seoul v Jeonbuk clash. Ulsan drew with the Champions last week, coming back from 1-0 down and still have a game in hand which is due to be played next Wednesday. They extended the loan of Mix Diskerud midweek which is a huge boost in their pursuit for the title with the American being the focal point of most of their attacking play. Having Junior, Lee Keun-ho and Joo Min-kyu to choose from up front makes them a frightening prospect for any team to have to defend against. Gangwon have been on a high of late but have just strangely parted ways with striker, and permanent thorn in most sides, Uros Deric. It’s a move which doesn’t really make sense and you have to imagine that they have someone lined up to take his place. They won 2-1 last weekend without him, goals from Cho Jae-wan and Park Chang-jun earning them the 3pts but Ulsan are not Gyeongnam and you have to think they’ll miss him greatly.
When Seongnam finally gained promotion at the tail end of 2018 there was only one match on the mind of every fan in black….Suwon Bluewings AWAY! This weekend finally sees it happen and it’s a match that despite the two clubs lowly league position will still be full of fire and hopefully a fair bit of skill too. Bluewings have found form at the right time this year and although title challenges and Asian Champions League spots are pie in the sky they have started to climb back up the table and occupy 6th spot, 3pts clear of Pohang. They continued their winning ways last week to make it three wins in a row and, as mentioned above, Adam Taggart found the net once again. This week did however see the departure of Saric and his guile and creativity could be sorely missed. Seongnam come into the game on the back of another defeat as they just couldn’t find a way past Daegu’s Jo Hyun-woo last Sunday night. The Korean Number 1 had an incredible night and pulled off a string of saves that should tempt a plethora of clubs to part with the cash to land him this summer. Seongnam know they need to get back to winning ways as Jeju United continue to close the gap. The last time the teams met Seongnam won with a 90th minute goal of the season contender, this one should also be close.
Also on Sunday we have Sangju vs Daegu as the Army team hope to turn their fortunes around after a run of four games without a win.