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Down to the Wire: Three Takeaways

With just two rounds remaining in K League 1 and one round remaining in K League 2, things are just about all decided for the 2022 campaign but there is still some unfinished business to be taken care of.  Ulsan Hyundai missed out on an opportunity to clinch their first division crown in more than a decade after settling for a draw against Pohang Steelers in the final edition of the East Coast Derby on Tuesday afternoon.  Meanwhile, despite a draw their last time out, FC Seoul look to have kept themselves in the top division for next year, knowing they still have a chance of ACL football next year with the upcoming FA Cup final guaranteeing them a place in the main draw if they can get past Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.  The final playoff spot in the second division is still in play after both Chungnam Asan and Gyeongnam FC failed to win.  KLU's Branko Belan looks at what's to come with the final curtain on the season ready to come down.


Horangi Need Just a Point to Clinch 

Ulsan Hyundai went to the Steelyard on Tuesday afternoon looking to seal their first K League 1 title since 2005 and looked to be headed in that direction when Valeri Qazaishvili gave them a one goal advantage five minutes before the break.  That lead would not last, however, as Lee Ho-jae headed home with twenty minutes to play to earn a share of the spoils at the final whistle.  With the gap at the top of the table now six points, Ulsan only need a single point from their final two matches to become champions, which would end Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors dominance in K League 1, having won five titles in a row.

Ulsan travel to face Gangwon FC on the weekend, whose chances of cracking the top four have faded after their loss to Jeonbuk last time out.  Ulsan have won all three matchups between the sides in the 2022 season, scoring seven and conceding three in the process, with the most recent match finishing 2-1 in favor of the league leaders on July 30th.  Lee Chung-yong and Jun Amano provided the goals on the occasion while Kim Dae-won got the only marker of the match for the Kodiaks.  Ulsan have only lost twice in the history of the tie, giving them ample opportunity to wrap things up with a match to spare.

FC Seoul Safe for 2023

FC Seoul managed just a draw against Gimcheon Sangmu in their last outing.
FC Seoul only managed a 1-1 draw with Gimcheon Sangmu the last time out but with a date coming up on the weekend against already-relegated Seongnam FC, they should feel confident enough to earn the point they need to stay in the top flight for the 2023 season.  Expectations were high at the beginning of the year but things really haven't gone according to plan thanks to a host of factors, but injuries throughout the squad have been a contributing factor to a dip in fortunes this year.  The sides have split the three previous meetings between them this season with both teams winning once and one match ending in a draw.  The last time they faced off, FC Seoul got the win by a score of 2-0 thanks to a brace from Stanislav Iljutcenko, who resurrected himself following his move to the nation's capital following a slow start with Jeonbuk.

While things in the league have been less successful, the domestic cup is still in play as the red and black have the FA Cup final in their sights at the end of the month when they face Jeonbuk.  FC Seoul knocked out Daegu FC to get to the final while the Green Warriors saw off Ulsan.  Things have been tight between the two this season with only three goals scored in three matches.  However, Jeonbuk have a massive advantage comparatively, going unbeaten in the past seventeen matches across all competitions dating back to 2017.  Will things be different this time around?  With the league now seemingly out of reach, it would be difficult to imagine Jeonbuk not being a part of the Champions League picture next year.  With it being their final chance for silverware in 2022, it would be unlikely for them to pass up the occasion.  
Final Place Still Available

Chungnam Asan will have their work cut out for them when they face Gwangju in their final match of the season on Saturday afternoon.
In what has been one of the most thrilling races in either division in years, both Chungnam Asan and Gyeongnam FC are still in the mix for the final playoff spot heading into the final weekend of the season.  The Reds missed a chance to finish the deal last weekend, suffering a 4-0 loss at the hands of league champions Gwangju FC, but what could be considered even more of a surprise, the Owls also slipped up, succumbing to bottom-dwellers Busan IPark by the exact same scoreline.

Both have difficult tests in front of them as Asan face Gwangju at home and Gyeongnam host FC Anyang.  The Reds can settle for a point, but the Owls need to win in order to have any chance of sliding into the playoffs on the final day after holding on to fifth spot for much of the season.  The Yellows are a perfect 3-0 against their opponents this weekend and don't look like they are in a mood to take their foot off the gas after a season in which they set a new record for overall points ahead of their promotion to the first division for next year.  Despite being head and shoulders above the rest, they would still like to end their season on a high.

The Reds and Violets have contested three close encounters this year with Anyang winning two of them and Gyeongnam one, so this one has a lot more potential of going either way.  The Reds know a point would be enough to see them over the line and would like to avenge the 3-2 defeat back in August when Boadu Maxwell Acosty scored the winner in the fourth minute of second half injury time after Kim Young-chan had found an equalizer in the 89th minute.

High drama awaits.  Who will be left standing at the final whistle on Saturday afternoon?

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