Seoul — Ulsan Hyundai FC confirmed their status as the dominant force in South Korean football by clinching their second consecutive K League 1 title on Sunday. The team defeated Daegu FC 2-0 at the Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, sealing the championship with three matches left to play in the season.
According to a new release by Yonhap News Agency, advanced to 70 points, establishing a 10-point gap over the second-place Pohang Steelers. With this lead, Pohang cannot catch up to Ulsan, even if they win their remaining matches and Ulsan loses all of theirs.
Pohang's 1-1 draw against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Saturday essentially paved the way for Ulsan's Sunday win to become a title clincher. Substitutes Kim Min-hyeok and Jang Si-young each found the back of the net in the second half, ensuring the championship for Ulsan.
This win marks Ulsan's fourth K League 1 title overall, and the first since 2005. With these four titles, Ulsan now stands tied with Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Busan IPark for the fifth-most championships in league history. Jeonbuk holds the record with nine titles.
In Hong's first season in charge in 2021, Ulsan finished in second place, just two points behind Jeonbuk. Their 2022 victory broke the drought, securing the title by a margin of three points over Jeonbuk, 76-73. Hong becomes the sixth head coach to win consecutive K League 1 titles and the first since Jose Morais accomplished the feat with Jeonbuk in 2019 and 2020.
Ulsan had a strong start to the 2023 season, embarking on a six-match winning streak that gave them a 13-point lead over Pohang by early July. While recent performances were less stellar, the lead built earlier in the season was sufficient to assure the title well ahead of time.
Prior to Sunday's match, Ulsan had only one win in their last seven games, scoring just six goals. That drought ended as Kim Min-hyeok scored 68 minutes into the match, just four minutes after being subbed in. Jang Si-young later secured Ulsan's win with his first career goal.
"After the match, Hong said, "We knew it would be difficult to score early because our opponents came prepared to play physically. We planned for a hard push for goals in the second half, and our substitutes did a great job."
Kim Min-hyeok, who joined Ulsan this year, expressed his contentment about contributing to the team's consecutive title victories. "I aimed to play aggressively right from the start," Kim said. "Ataru made an excellent cross, and I was prepared to capitalize on it."