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Official: Ulsan Hyundai win 2023 K League 1 title

Ulsan Hyundai are K League 1 champions for the second year in a row, winning the title with three games to spare thanks to a 2-0 win over Daegu FC on Sunday. 
A Kim Min-hyeok goal for Ulsan in the 69th minute of the 2023 Hana 1Q K League 1 Round 35 clash at home to Daegu put the Horangi on the brink before Jang Si-young made it 2-0 late on, sealing Hong Myung-bo's men their second championship in as many seasons and doing so even earlier than they did in 2022.

Pohang Steelers' 1-1 draw with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Saturday opened the door for Ulsan to go on and retain their title. The stage, then, was set at the Munsu for the visit of Daegu FC.

But Ulsan had to work for the victory with a goalless first half suggesting that the champagne would have to remain on ice for a bit longer.

But former Seongnam FC midfielder Kim Min-hyeok got on the end of an Ataru Esaka cross for a diving header dead centre in the penalty area to calm the nerves before 21-year-old Jang put the match beyond doubt with a cool finish, bringing the ball down from a long pass forward from Joo Min-kyu.


Despite the dip in form in the third round robin of the season and into the split, Ulsan wrapped up the title sooner than they did in 2022. Last year it was sealed in Round 37 away to Gangwon FC courtest of a 2-1 come-from-behind win.


FNR

How did they do it?

Ulsan got off to a very good start to the new campaign, beating Jeonbuk on the opening day and then winning their next five in a row. They lost to Daejeon in Round 7 then drew the first East Coast Derby of the season in Round 8 in what was clearly only a minor blip but the next time Ulsan dropped points wasn't until Round 15; their next defeat came in Round 16. Compare that to their main title rivals, Jeonbuk and Pohang, and Ulsan were streets ahead. Jeonbuk managed just three wins from the first round robin whereas Pohang managed to start brightly but drew four of their first seven. 



What it means

Ulsan recorded a first K League title in 17 years last year and, with Hong Myung-bo's men winning the league again this year, it's the first time that Ulsan have won back-to-back titles in their history. 

In doing so, Ulsan join an elite group of clubs that have managed to win league titles in consecutive seasons. Only three other clubs have managed to do that - Ilhwa Chunma (modern-day Seongnam FC), from 1993 to 1995 and from 2001 to 2003, Suwon Bluewings in 1998 and 1999, and Jeonbuk in 2014 and 2015 and from 2017 to 2021.

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