Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

South Korea: Jeonbuk lead the way in final straight

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on August 10, 2011

K-League logoWith two-thirds of the K-League regular season completed the championship is reaching the business end in South Korea. Unlike most footballing top-flight divisions, the K-League determines its winners by a post-season play-off system in which the top six battle it out for the title. With 20 of the 30 regular season rounds played only league leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and second placed Pohang Steelers seem to be virtually assured of their play-off places.

Jeonbuk top the table with 43 points and enjoy a six point advantage over Pohang Steelers. Jeonbuk’s only defeat in the last sixteen matches came at the hands of Pohang who are the only club to have won the play-off format in its current format, adopted in 2007, from outside first place. Jeonbuk’s Dong-Gook Lee has featured prominently in the top three of the goal scoring charts throughout the season having scored ten goals so far and lies four and five goals behind Jung-Woo Kim (Sangju Sangmu) and Dejan Damjanovic (FC Seoul) respectively.

Speaking of FC Seoul, the defending K-League champions currently lie in fourth place with equal points to third place Jeju United (both have 33) and seem to rely a little too heavily at present on their Montenegran striker Damjanovic in their quest to re-capture the title. Along with Jeonbuk and eighth placed Suwon Samsung Bluewings, FC Seoul will resume their AFC Champions League campaign in mid-September and it will be interesting to see how those clubs involved in Asia’s top club competition can balance out demands at home and abroad.

Amongst the other sides battling it out for the play-offs there are five points separating third-place Jeju United from ninth-place Ulsan Hyundai. Ulsan have already won the K-League Cup this season and are hoping to win a domestic treble this season with further success in the Korean FA Cup (their semi-final against Suwon Bluewings takes place in late August) and the K-League. Completing the play-off places at the moment are fifth-place Chunnam Dragons and sixth place Busan I’Park (32 points) who both narrowly lead nearest challengers Gyeongnam FC by just a solitary point.

The biggest shock this season is the woeful form of record champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. South Korea’s most successful club with seven national league titles and two Asian Champions League titles, the most recent of those came only last year, currently lie in 14th place in the 16 team league just one point ahead of second-bottom Daejon Citizen but comfortably ahead of Gangwon FC who have won just one game all season.

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