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A Lot Still Undecided: Three Takeaways

In K League 1, the first round of Finals A and B were played over the weekend with the top three all but assured, but the question remains as to who is going to end up in fourth after both Incheon United and Jeju United lost, while Gangwon benefitted from their win on the road to move up to fifth.  In K League 2, Gyeongnam opened up a five point gap in the race for the final playoff spot, but will it be enough?  KLU's Branko Belan looks at the possible outcomes with a lot still very much up in the air.


Ulsan Record Confident Victory

Ulsan Hyundai took one more step towards their first league title since 2005 with a resounding 3-0 win against Incheon United, thanks to goals from Choi Ki-yun, Jun Amano, and Martin Ádám.  The Horangi had thorough domination on the afternoon and the result never seemed in doubt after the Durumi were reduced to ten men in the 50th minute after Kang Yun-gu was sent off for a second bookable offense.  The win keeps their margin above Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in second at five points, with the two sides set to do battle this coming weekend in what could potentially be a title decider.

In fact, the sides will meet twice this week, with the semi-final of the FA Cup on Wednesday night, so tensions are sure to be running high with everything to play for.  While Jeonbuk have had a noticeable advantage in the head-to-head series overall, this season has presented a different story, as each side has won once, and the last match between them in August ended in a draw.  Is Ulsan finally ready to scale to the top of the division after so many years of coming up short?  This week will provide the answer to that question.

Who Wants Fourth Place?

Gangwon FC won away to Jeju and moved up to fifth in the table.
Incheon United had a glorious opportunity to potentially secure fourth spot with a win last weekend but came up well short at home against leaders Ulsan.  In a matchup of fifth versus sixth, Gangwon FC came away 2-1 victors against Jeju United, who would have drawn level on points with Incheon had they managed to win.  That means that Incheon are still fourth on 49 points, with Gangwon just two points behind, and Jeju staying on 46 points.

Things get interesting now as Gangwon host Incheon next, while the Tangerines will look to regroup when they travel to the Steelyard for a date with Pohang, knowing that their season is on the line in terms of staying in the conversation for qualification to the playoff stage of the Asian Champions League for next season.  There is a caveat, however, in that one of Daegu FC or FC Seoul will play in the FA Cup final.  Should one of those two sides lift the trophy at the end of the competition, that would take fourth place completely out of the equation, as was the case last season when Jeonnam Dragons won the trophy, denying the islanders their spot on the continental stage.  Nam Ki-il's men need not worry too much about results elsewhere if they can't handle their own business first.  A win against the Steelers would keep them in the fight, knowing that Incheon would be next in line, setting up a potentially all-important clash on October 11th.
 
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Reds Go Five Clear

Tiago Orobó netted his eighteenth goal in the Reds' win on the weekend.
Gyeongnam FC did themselves a big favor coming away with a 2-0 triumph over Jeonnam Dragons on the weekend, getting a goal in each half, from Park Min-seo in the first half, and Tiago Orobó in the second after he had entered proceedings just before the hour mark.  It was the fifteenth win of the season for the Reds, who now have a five point edge on fifth spot in the table, and the final playoff spot.  That leaves them with only two matches - against Gwangju FC on October 9th on the road and against FC Anyang at home on the 15th.  The Yellows have already long since clinched the division and automatic promotion, but FC Anyang are still in the thick of the hunt for home field advantage in the playoffs and will not go lightly.

That entire scenario could be affected in another way, however, depending on the outcome of the match between Seoul E-Land and Chungnam Asan with both teams on 48 points.  A win for either side could keep them in the hunt, but if they manage just a draw, the chances are quite high that Gyeongnam would be a safe bet to get into the semi-playoff against one of either Bucheon FC 1995 or Daejeon Hana Citizen, depending on how results go.  The final outcome should be known soon, yet somehow seems still a ways from being decided.


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