ULSAN, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) — Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors defeated their K League 1 rivals Ulsan Hyundai FC 1-0 on Sunday to close in on a piece of South Korean football history.
Mo Barrow netted the second-half winner by capitalizing on a Ulsan miscue at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, 415 kilometers southeast of Seoul. The victory lifted Jeonbuk (57 points) past Ulsan (54 points) into first place with one match remaining in the 2020 season.
Should Jeonbuk hold on, they’ll become the first club in K League history to win four consecutive championships.
Jeonbuk will host Daegu FC for the season finale next Sunday, while Ulsan will bring Gwangju FC home on the same day.
Jeonbuk and Ulsan entered Sunday knotted at 54 points, though Ulsan were ahead in the table thanks to their 51-43 advantage in goals scored, the first tiebreaker.
For Ulsan to beat Jeonbuk for the title, they will have to beat Gwangju FC and hope that Daegu FC can upset Jeonbuk. In that scenario, Ulsan and Jeonbuk will be tied at 57 points, and Jeonbuk are unlikely to make up their still-significant deficit in the goals scored department, now at 51-44.
In Sunday’s match, Barrow broke the scoreless deadlock in the 63rd minute, thanks to a careless back pass by Ulsan defender Kim Kee-hee.
When a long pass came toward him from Jeonbuk’s end, Kim casually headed it back toward goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo. But Barrow was lurking in the background and went charging toward the ball before Jo could get to it. Barrow got a piece of the ball with his left foot, enough to redirect it past Jo. The ball rolled slowly into the empty net, and there was no Ulsan player near the play to stop it.
It was an anticlimactic way to decide a match in which each team found the woodwork twice and Jeonbuk missed a penalty.
Jeonbuk defender Lee Yong rattled the post with a low shot in the 16th minute. It was Ulsan’s turn seven minutes later, as midfielder Yoon Bitgaram’s free kick from just outside the box hit the crossbar.
In the 34th minute, Jeonbuk were awarded a penalty following a video review of a disputed play from moments earlier.
Jeonbuk forward Gustavo tried to head home a cross, but the attempt instead went off the right forearm of Ulsan midfielder Kim In-sung, who jumped in front of Gustavo and had his head turned left when the ball hit him. Though Kim clearly had no intention of getting his arm on the ball, he was still called for a handball violation.
Gustavo took the spot kick himself, but Ulsan goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo kicked the shot out of the net with his left leg as he was diving to his right.
Jeonbuk couldn’t buy a break, with forward Cho Gue-sung hitting the left goal post with a volley attempt in the 44th minute. Then in the final play of the first half, Ulsan midfielder Lee Chung-yong misfired from close range after a perfect pass from Junior Negrao found him all alone on the right side of the box.
Jo came up with another big save for Ulsan in the 58th minute, denying Han Kyo-won on a header. On the ensuing corner, Hong Jeong-ho missed the net high with a header of his own.
With Ulsan trailing 1-0 in the dying moments, Yoon took a free kick, from virtually the same spot where he’d taken one in the first half. And the result was also the same, as Yoon’s shot struck the crossbar and stayed out of the net.
Yoon took one last desperate shot at the net during injury time, but goalkeeper Song Bum-keun made an easy save to preserve Jeonbuk’s lead.
Jeonbuk beat Ulsan in all three meetings this season.