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Exceptional Islanders Clinch Automatic Promotion With Championship Victory



Jeju United sealed their most successful season in club history on Sunday afternoon with a 3-2 victory over Seoul E-Land, ensuring their return to K League 1 for the 2021 campaign.  After last season's historic collapse, the islanders answered the bell and did what many expected of them in securing the K League 2 title putting them back in the top flight with what was in truth a comfortable win despite conceding twice late.  KLU's Branko Belan looks back on the title-clinching win.


Jeju United accomplished something on Sunday afternoon that the club had not done in three decades - win a league title.  Suwon FC's 2-1 win over Gyeongnam on Saturday afternoon meant that it was Nam Ki-il's men who needed to deliver a response and they did so in resounding fashion.  The final scoreline was not indicative of just how dominant the islanders were on the ball as they pushed forward in waves with the only intention of securing the league title with a week to spare.

Jeju were in front on 22 minutes thanks to Jung Woo-jae's penalty conversion after Kim Su-an was shown a yellow for handling the ball in the area.  A calm, collected finish it was to the opposite side of Kang Jeong-mook.  Both sides had opportunities to score before the end of the half, but the scoreline remained unchanged at the interval.

The Leopards could have drawn level in the early minutes of the second half, but Richard Sukuta-Pasu dragged his effort from the top of the area wide of the post.  A tactical switch from Nam Ki-il saw Lee Dong-ryul replaced by Kang Yoon-sung, which would prove fruitful later on.  The pace of the second half did not begin to pick up until the number six was the second man to find the net on 72 minutes.  He was in the right spot to slot home Jin Seong-wook's low cross from the right and it seemed all but done as the islanders were one step closer to victory.

The heroics of Kang Yoon-sung and Jin Seong-wook propelled the islanders to championship glory.

  That would not be the end of the narrative, however, as Jin made it three six minutes later.  He capitalized on a defensive error and proceeded to turn his defender inside-out before measuring his finish with a strike into the low left corner and by then, it had been all but assured that Jeju would indeed accomplish the objective before them on the afternoon.

Seoul E-Land would temper matters somewhat as Kim Min-kyun pulled a goal back on 87 minutes.  He benefitted from a kind bounce off the post and had the time and space to nudge the ball over the line from close range, giving a faint glimmer of hope to the visitors of maintaining their spot in the playoff race.  Richard Sukuta-Pasu would add a second in the fourth minute of injury time, but it wasn't quite enough to get them over the line.

The gravity of the achievement was not lost on Nam Ki-il.

"I am very happy to have won such a valuable victory in front of the residents of Jeju and to be confirmed as champions.  The fans were hurt last season so it is very meaningful to have won the K League 2 title and gain promotion to the first division this year.  I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the players who excelled, the fans for their warm support, and the club officials who supported all of us.  I am not satisfied with this, and will prepare well for next season with the team and players," he said after the match. 

Nam Ki-il has now secured promotion to K League 1 with three different clubs.

After opening the season winless in their first three matches, the pendulum swung in their favor, and are now unbeaten in fifteen consecutive matches going into the final weekend.  Following their 3-2 loss to Daejeon in May, Jeju have scored in 24 straight matches and it is also noteworthy that they have beaten every team in the division this year on their way to the title.  

There is still the matter of an away trip to Asan next week.  Lee Dong-ryul, who is considered a front-runner for the first-ever Young Player of the Year award in K League 2 will likely get the start next week so that he can fulfill the minimum requirement of having played half of the matches over the course of the season to qualify for contention.

Nam Ki-il has likely locked up the Manager of the Year award with yesterday afternoon's result.  Lee Chang-min is a candidate for Most Valuable Player and ten islanders are in the mix for the K League 2 Best XI.  While the title has been decided, it is still necessary to get a result next weekend to put an exclamation point on what has been a truly memorable season.  The confidence in the side is extremely high, and nothing would be more fitting than to end the season with a final three points.   

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