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Things Remain Tight in Both Divisions: Three Takeaways

With each passing week, it is becoming more and more apparent that there will be a serious title race in both divisions this year.  Ulsan Hyundai and Incheon United played to a draw over the weekend, while the middle of the table in K League 1 is extremely tight, with spots fourth through tenth separated by only four points.  Meanwhile, the early playoff picture in the second division remains revealing, although the top four remains the same as last week.  KLU's Branko Belan looks at the talking points from the latest round of matches.


Top Two Play to a Draw

In the most anticipated match of the weekend, Incheon United and Ulsan Hyundai played to a draw as the Durumi continue to state their case as a top six club this season.  The result means that the gap at the summit remains three points, and a missed opportunity for the Horangi to distance themselves from the pack in the early stages of the campaign.

The home side carried the play for the first quarter of an hour and could have gone in front if not for a double save from Jo Hyeon-woo to keep the sheet clean in the early going, as both Elias Aguilar and Kim Do-hyeok were denied on the doorstep.  Ulsan grew into the match as proceedings progressed and had an opportunity to snatch the lead just past the half hour mark when Eom Won-sang made a darting run down the right but the ensuing effort from Leonardo was kept out by the safe hands of Kim Dong-heon.

Ulsan would skip into the lead less than ten minutes after the interval when the former Gwangju FC man was on the spot to nod home Yun Il-lok's cross from the left flank.  Yet, despite their dominance on the ball for most of the match, Incheon would equalize through their talisman Stefan Mugoša with fifteen minutes remaining as he slotted a neat header into the back of the net with the Horangi back line switched off for a moment.  There would be no change in the scoreline until the final whistle, and the pair remain top of the table with Incheon traveling to Daegu in midweek while Ulsan are away to Jeju United. 

Mid-Table Logjam Looking to Make Things Interesting

Daegu FC and Jeju United played to a goalless draw last time out.
While Ulsan continues to lead the pack in division one, there is a lot of competition below them as Pohang Steelers in fourth and Suwon Samsung Bluewings in tenth are separated by only four points following the first seven rounds.  Several teams squandered opportunities to create a bit of separation this weekend, with Jeju United being held at home against Daegu FC, while the aforementioned Steelers also had to settle for a draw against FC Seoul.  Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors managed just their second win of the season, beating Gangwon FC 2-1 away from home.  The result of the round saw Seongnam FC defeat Suwon FC by a count of 4-3, giving them their first win of the season in the process.

Matchday eight will be a midweek affair, with a key first versus third battle when Ulsan travel to Jeju, while Suwon Bluewings host Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Tuesday night as well.  There figures to be a lot of jostling for position in the coming weeks, with teams wanting to cement themselves ahead of a lengthy break for the group stage of the Asian Champions League not far in the distance.  Matchday nine will see Ulsan hosting Daegu FC, and Incheon home to Jeju, with the first Super Match of the season also on offer.  Where will everyone be once the dust settles?  

FNR

Playoff Picture Looking Interesting in K League 2

The Dragons and the Leopards had to settle for a share of the spoils in a hotly contested match.
The top four in the second division also remained unchanged following the latest results at the weekend, with Jeonnam Dragons squandering an opportunity to move up the table as they had to settle for a draw against Seoul E-Land, with Park In-hyeok scoring a penalty with a quarter of an hour remaining after Lee Dong-ryul had put the Leopards ahead just past the half hour mark.

The gap between fourth and ninth is just five points at the moment, so there will be very little room for error for the teams who are genuinely eyeing a playoff berth, although it is still far too early to make any concrete predictions.  

Gwangju FC may look to be the only sure-fire winners in the next round of matches as they host a struggling Busan IPark side, who were bettered by Chungnam Asan on the weekend.  In the other matches of the round, the Owls face Gyeongnam FC, while Jeonnam host Daejeon Hana Citizen; Seoul E-Land are away to Bucheon FC 1995, who continue to lead the pack, and the first Line 4 Derby of the season takes place at the Wa, with the Green Wolves hosting the Violets.  With things as tight as they are at the moment, which teams will state their case for early playoff contention as the season moves into the summer?  The following weeks should be able to paint a better picture as to who the contenders will be, and who are merely just pretenders.

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