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The Final Pieces of the Puzzle: Three Takeaways

Ulsan Hyundai have been crowned champions of K League 1 for the first time in seventeen years following their come from behind 2-1 win over Gangwon FC at the weekend.  The relegation picture still has not been completely solved as there are several permutations in play for a number of clubs heading into the final round of matches.  Meanwhile, the playoffs have been confirmed in division two.  What is to be expected in the coming weeks?  KLU's Branko Belan examines the possibilities.
 

Ulsan Hyundai Crowned Champions

Ulsan Hyundai had to do it the hard way, coming from a goal down to defeat Gangwon FC on the road to seal their first K League 1 title since 2005.  Kim Dae-won put the hosts in front on 66 minutes from the penalty spot, but a quick reply from the newly crowned champions courtesy of a sizzling volley from Um Won-sang with a quarter of an hour to play and a burly finish for the winner from Hungarian international Martin Ádám four minutes from the end of regulation time to cap off what was a dominant performance on the afternoon.

For the Horangi, it is redemption following several failed attempts, to scale to the top of the first division, ending Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' five year reign in the process.  Ulsan were the class of the league in 2022, suffering only five defeats over the course of the campaign, while also registering the best goal differential with one match still to play against Jeju United, whose continental aspirations have already been erased.  It has already been announced that Leonardo will be leaving the club once his loan is up, but he, Lee Chung-yong, Kim Kee-hee, Valeri Qazaishvili, and the rest will now be able to put their names in the club history books alongside the likes of Lee Chun-soo and Yoo Sang-chul, the main architects of Ulsan's second league title all those years ago.

Relegation Picture Still Unclear

FC Seoul will have one more chance to secure their place in division one for 2023 after slipping up against Seongnam.
FC Seoul missed their opportunity to guarantee first division football thanks to their 1-0 loss to Seongnam FC last time out.  They now face a tricky encounter when they travel to face Suwon FC in their final match in Final B, knowing that they are not completely safe from the relegation playoffs.  They currently sit on 43 points, two ahead of Suwon Samsung Bluewings, also heading out on the road against Gimcheon Sangmu, who will certainly be one of the teams in the relegation playoff, but in what position remains unclear at the moment.

The club from the capital needs a win to guarantee safety; a draw may not be enough to see them through, as both they and Suwon have scored the same amount of goals this season.  If they better Suwon's result this weekend, they will be in the clear, but there is still a lot of work to be done, as fans were quite upset at the result against the Magpies, with several voicing their wish to see An Ik-soo depart from the club.  With the FA Cup final coming up against Jeonbuk Hyundai, should they win the two-legged final, they could be headed to Asia already having been relegated to the second tier.  Do they have what it takes to save their blushes, or will the current situation continue to get worse?
 
FNR

Let the Festivities Begin

Should Seol Ki-hyeon be concerned ahead of his side's playoff fixture against Bucheon FC 1995?
Bucheon FC 1995 host Gyeongnam FC in the first match of the K League 2 playoffs, as the long and winding road begins for both as they vie to move onwards to face a waiting FC Anyang side who finished third in the table.  Bucheon look to be the favorites as they have taken three of four matches in the tie this season, scoring three goals in each of their wins, the most recent a 3-0 victory last month.  Should the match end in a draw, Bucheon will still move on by virtue of being the home team.

The club that survives after the final whistle will then be in line to face the Violets on Sunday afternoon.  FC Anyang won three of four against Bucheon this season, but split their season series with the Reds, with each club winning twice.  By that logic, Bucheon would be the more favorable opponent, but anything is possible in the playoffs.  

The only team with any measure of stability at the moment is Daejeon Hana Citizen, who will face off against the 11th placed finisher from K League 1 in a two-legged playoff for promotion/relegation, with the first leg to be played at the Purple Arena on October 26th, and the return leg three days later.  

It's time to fasten in for what could indeed be a very bumpy ride.

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