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K League 1 Finals A and B Round 34: Three Takeaways

The first round of matches in Final A and Final B saw some eye-catching results as there was somewhat of a shift in the upper bracket.  Both Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Ulsan Hyundai won, meaning they continue to be level on points, but Kim Sang-sik's men have a superior goal difference.  Jeju United created shockwaves with a resounding away win to Daegu FC, while Gwangju FC could not hold on for victory against Gangwon FC, leaving their K League 1 status for next season on a knife-edge.


Ulsan Hyundai Fend Off Suwon FC in Five Goal Battle

Ulsan Hyundai managed to take all three points in the end against Suwon FC in what should have been a routine win considering how the match played out in the first quarter of an hour.  They were already two goals in front after Valeri Qazaishvili converted from the spot after just ten minutes of play, and Oh Se-hun doubled the advantage just four minutes later.  Cho Yu-min's handball in the area led to the first goal after a check with VAR, and Yun Il-lok played provider for the second.

Lars Veldwijk cut the deficit in half on 34 minutes and Yang Dong-hyen found an equalizer four minutes before the hour mark to put things all square.  Lee Dong-gyeong would play the hero with just under twenty minutes left, slotting in from close range after Oh Se-hun had settled Won Du-jae's long ball into his path and he made no mistake with the finish.  

It was a very close call for the Horangi, who allowed Suwon back into the match by inviting too much pressure on both goals, something which they will have to avoid as they face Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Saturday in what could be the potential title decider.  As they are playing away, they will have to hope for a similar result to the one which saw them knock their league rivals out of the AFC Champions League at the quarterfinal stage.  Hong Myung-bo cannot be too predictable with his tactics - the style of play has been a bit conservative at times but that approach has cost them in the past.  He shouldn't shy away from rolling the dice if he wants to ensure three points from the contest.

Islanders Run Roughshod Over Daegu FC

Ahn Hyun-beom has been critical to Jeju's success this season and was again on Sunday afternoon.
It was only just over two years ago when Daegu FC opened their brand new stadium, DGB Park and the first visitors were indeed Jeju United.  The Sky Blues went on to win on the day by a score of 2-0, setting in motion the worst season in club history for the islanders.

After promotion from a season ago, views were mixed as to how Nam Ki-il's men would fare in their first season back in the top division.  A lot of those questions have now been answered, as Jeju are currently one of only three teams in K League 1, the other two being the top two with a positive goal difference, Jeju now on +9 after a 5-0 victory at the weekend.

Joo Min-kyu added two goals to his account against Daegu, bringing his season total to nineteen and making him the favorite to win the Golden Boot based on his current form with four goals in his past two matches.

Critical for Jeju in the playoff round will be their two home matches, the first of which comes this Saturday afternoon against Suwon Bluewings.  They will also host Suwon FC in the coming weeks.  Both will be must-win matches as they have to travel to the top two in their remaining pair of fixtures.  Their win against Daegu currently puts them three points in front of both Suwon teams and now just one point off of third, which could guarantee an ACL Champions League place for next season.  The objective in front of them is clear, but the execution must happen on the pitch.

Gwangju FC Teetering on the Brink

Gwangju's match against FC Seoul on Wednesday night could be their last chance to save their season.
Entering Final B already with a five point gap to make up. Gwangju could have taken advantage of FC Seoul's loss to Incheon United in the Gyeongin Derby by securing maximum points at home to Gangwon FC on Sunday night.  They were minutes away from securing the feat, but a second half strike from Shin Se-gye with injury time approaching dashed any hopes they would have had of gaining ground at the bottom of the table.

Kim Dae-won put the visitors in the lead from the penalty spot after thirty minutes, but second half goals from Lee Chan-dong, who poked the ball in from close range following Lee Bum-soo's goalkeeping blunder, and Hool Yeo, who created a turnover in midfield before racing in on goal to fire the ball low into the net.

Shin's vivacious hit from outside the penalty area found the top corner just as the match was headed into time added on.  With the teams finishing level on the night, Gwangju only managed to cut down the deficit with Seoul to four points.  With the two sides ready to face each other on Wednesday night, the result could determine Gwangju's fate.  Anything less than a win will likely see them down to the second division for the 2022 season.

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