Han Kyo-won of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (L) tries to dribble past Na Sang-ho of FC Seoul during the clubs' K League 1 match at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul, on Friday. (Yonhap)
By notching their third straight victory at home over the weekend, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors have made the battle for the South Korean football title more interesting than it should be.
By beating FC Seoul 3-2 on Sunday at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul, Jeonbuk improved to 42 points after 22 matches. Thanks to Han Kyo-won's two-goal effort, Jeonbuk sit three points back of the K League-leading Ulsan Hyundai FC but also have two matches in hand.
Ulsan only managed a 2-2 draw against the lowly Jeju United on Saturday, costing themselves a precious two points in what's shaping up to be another two-horse race for the K League supremacy.
And Ulsan should by now understand every point and every goal count when battling Jeonbuk for the crown. In 2019, the two rival clubs were tied in points, but Jeonbuk prevailed on the goals scored tiebreak edge, 72-71.
Last year, Jeonbuk edged out Ulsan by three points, 60-57, in a race only determined on the penultimate weekend of the season.
This year, Jeonbuk are taking dead aim at a record fifth straight championship, while Ulsan are trying to avoid breaking their own dubious record of most runner-up finishes. They have finished in second place nine times.
With Ulsan and Jeonbuk pulling away from the pack, the middle of the table in the 12-team league is getting crowded.
Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Daegu FC and Pohang Steelers, positioned third to fifth, all have 34 points apiece. Suwon have played 24 matches while the other two have 23 matches in the books. Suwon lead that trio with 32 goals scored.
Right behind that group are two clubs whose long undefeated streaks ended Sunday.
Suwon FC are in sixth place with 31 points after a 3-1 loss to Pohang. This snapped Suwon FC's unbeaten run at six matches.
Incheon United remained stuck at 30 points following their 1-0 loss to last-place Gwangju FC. Incheon had not had a loss in eight matches prior to Sunday.
By winning for the first time in four matches, Gwangju FC moved to 22 points, still in last place but now just two back of FC Seoul. The caveat is Gwangju FC have played two more matches than FC Seoul with 24.
Clubs have all played different numbers of matches so far because of coronavirus-related disruptions. FC Seoul and Seongnam FC had some of their matches moved around following a positive case for a Seoul player in May.
Then in July, Seongnam FC, Jeju United, Daegu FC and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors all reported positive COVID-19 cases, forcing the league to reschedule their matches. (Yonhap)