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Things Are Tightening Up: Three Takeaways

Things got a bit tighter in the first division as Pohang Steelers took the latest edition of the East Coast Derby with a 2-0 win against Ulsan Hyundai, while Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors defeated Gimcheon Sangmu to cut the deficit at the top to five points.  Things in division two did not change much as Gwangju FC still have a healthy edge ahead of the rest of the pack, although the playoff places are now even more tightly contested with second through fourth now separated by just a single point following Bucheon FC 1995's victory over Daejeon Hana Citizen on the weekend.  KLU's Branko Belan looks back at the weekend's action.


East Coast Derby to Pohang

Pohang Steelers moved into third place in the first division table following their 2-0 derby win over Ulsan Hyundai thanks to a brace from Kim Seung-dae, who found the net once in each half.  Ulsan dominated possession for large parts of the match, but could only manage a single shot on target in what was an otherwise lethargic performance.  Despite only having a third of the ball over the course of ninety minutes, Kim made the best of his chances and helped his side exact a measure of revenge for the defeat at the hands of their rivals earlier in the season.

Ulsan took seven of a possible nine points from the fixture last year, so for the Steelers to get a win was a huge boost to their chances of staying in the hunt for a potential ACL berth, although it is still much too early to tell where they will finish come the end of the season.  It's a quick turnaround with a slate of midweek fixtures coming up, as Pohang travel to Seongnam to face a Magpies side coming off a 2-0 loss to Gangwon FC on the weekend and very much in danger of relegation having only secured twelve points from their first nineteen matches of the season.  Ulsan, meanwhile, face the same Gangwon side who have built a bit of momentum recently with back-to-back wins.  Kim Dae-won is currently on a good bit of form and will be one to watch again as the Kodiaks can potentially move up the table if they can pull off a surprise against the league leaders.

Jeonbuk Close the Gap

Takahiro Kunimoto has three goals in his past four matches for Jeonbuk.
A 2--1 win over Gimcheon Sangmu on the weekend has brought the five-time defending champions to within five points of the league lead ahead of their midweek tilt when they travel to FC Seoul, who came from a pair of goals down against Jeju United on Saturday evening to claim a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw.  Kim Sang-sik's men are currently unbeaten in their past four matches, while the club from the capital are winless in their past three.  

Takahiro Kunimoto scored in the win for Jeonbuk, and continues his good form with three goals in his past four matches, while Gustavo scored the winner with ten minutes remaining, his first goal since early May.  After being among the goal scoring leaders a season ago, his production has tapered off some in 2022, with just four goals in seventeen league appearances thus far.  He did have a bout with the coronavirus earlier this year, and the hope is that he will be able to find his form again as the campaign heads into the second half of the season.  Stanislav Iljutcenko has struggled mightily this year, with just a pair of goals against Seongnam back in April to show for his efforts, so the goals are going to have to come from somewhere if the current holders are to maintain their momentum.

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Playoff Battle Getting Tighter

Gwangju FC are looking more and more assured of automatic promotion from week to week, despite their recent struggles, as they only picked up a point in a goalless draw against Gimpo FC last time out.  As luck would have it, those in their rearview mirror have not been able to make up significant ground in the past few rounds as Daejeon Hana Citizen were denied a chance to chip into the Yellows' lead when they faltered against Bucheon FC 1995 in a 2-0 loss.

Gwangju and Bucheon will face off in midweek, while a bit further down the table, FC Anyang and Chungnam Asan will match up in a battle with playoff implications as well.  The Owls need to bounce back after a poor showing against Busan IPark, while the Violets are coming off a comprehensive 4-1 result in the Line 4 Derby against Ansan Greeners.  The Purples, who are without a win in their past four matches, need to get a result against the Green Wolves and reverse the negative string of results that have derailed a possible charge for top spot.  The fixture list is congested this month, and where teams finish heading into August could dictate where they finish up at the end of the season.

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