SEOUL– Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors moved to the brink of a historic fifth straight title in the top South Korean football league on Sunday.
Hong Jeong-ho and Moon Seon-min scored a goal apiece to lead Jeonbuk past Daegu FC 2-0 in the clubs’ penultimate match of the 2021 K League 1 season on Sunday at DGB Daegu Bank Park in Daegu, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
Jeonbuk improved to 73 points, two points ahead of their closest competitor, Ulsan Hyundai FC, with one match remaining this season.
Ulsan settled for a scoreless draw with Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Sunday to fall back in the race.
For their final matches of the season, both kicking off at 3 p.m. next Sunday, Jeonbuk will face Jeju United and Ulsan will take on Daegu FC.
Jeonbuk will try to become the first K League team to win five titles in a row. Ulsan will chase their first championship since 2005. They finished runners-up to Jeonbuk in each of the past two years.
Jeonbuk could make history with a draw against Jeju.
A Jeonbuk draw and a Ulsan victory will knot the two clubs at 74 points. However, Jeonbuk currently hold a sizable advantage in the first tiebreaking category, goals scored, at 69-62. This means Ulsan will have to score eight more goals than Jeonbuk in this scenario — not impossible but highly unlikely.
A Jeonbuk victory will make any number crunching irrelevant and give them their record-setting trophy.
Ulsan can only claim the championship outright with a combination of their win and a Jeonbuk loss next week.
Against Daegu, Jeonbuk got on the board two minutes into the second half with Hong Jeong-ho’s goal, set up by Takahiro Kunimoto’s corner.
Daegu pressed for an equalizer, coming closest when Kim Jin-hyuk’s diving header struck goalkeeper Song Bum-keun’s face and stayed out of the net.
Moon sealed the win for Jeonbuk with a chip shot over goalkeeper Choi Young-eun in the 86th minute.
At Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, some 45 kilometers south of Seoul, Ulsan’s Lee Dong-gyeong failed to convert a penalty in the 21st minute, with goalkeeper No Dong-geon diving to his left to punch out the low shot.
On the ensuing corner for Ulsan, Kim Kee-hee’s header rang off the crossbar, as the match remained scoreless.
Both clubs had a goal wiped out on an offside — Suwon in the 57th minute and then Ulsan 12 minutes later.
Also on Sunday, Gangwon FC played FC Seoul to a 0-0 draw to avoid an automatic relegation to the second-tier K League 2 for next season.
In their first match under new head coach Choi Yong-soo, Gangwon picked up a precious point to reach 40 for the season, four better than last-place Gwangju FC with one match remaining.
This result ensured that Gwangju FC, who’d lost to Seongnam FC 1-0 on Saturday, will finish dead last in 12th place and will be relegated to the lower division regardless of next week’s matches.
Gangwon FC are locked into 11th place, since they’re four points behind Seongnam FC with one game left. Gangwon will face Daejeon Hana Citizen, a playoff winner from the K League 2, in the two-legged promotion-relegation playoff next month.
The first leg is 7 p.m. on Dec. 8 in Daejeon, some 160 kilometers south of Seoul, and the next match is at 2 p.m. on Dec. 12 in Chuncheon, Gangwon FC’s home located 85 kilometers east of the capital.
The winner, determined by the aggregate score, will play in the K League 1 next season.
Gangwon FC haven’t been in the second division since 2016. Daejeon last played in the K League 1 in 2015.
Source: Yonhap News Agency