Gimcheon overtake Ulsan for top spot as K League title race intensifies

Pohang Steelers coach Park Tae-ha speaks during an interview in Buk District, Pohang, May 7. Yonhap

The race for the Korean football title took another interesting turn over the weekend, with clubs near the top trading places once again.

Gimcheon Sangmu FC climbed to first place with a 2-0 win over Daegu FC on Saturday, which gave them 39 points through 20 matches with 11 wins, six draws and three losses.

Two-time defending champions Ulsan HD FC had a chance to regain the top spot Sunday but instead lost 2-1 to Pohang Steelers in their second “East Coast Derby” of the season.

Ulsan now trail Gimcheon by one point at 38, from 11 wins, five draws and four losses. Pohang, with just one loss in their past six contests, are right behind Ulsan with 37 points.

These three clubs have occupied the top three spots virtually all season long, and with 18 matches to go, the picture isn’t any clearer.

Gimcheon have now won three straight matches, tied with FC Seoul for the longest active streak. Ulsan, on the other hand, suffered their 토토 first loss in six matches after conceding two goals within the first 20 minutes of the rivalry match against Pohang.

If Ulsan do end up pulling off their “three-peat” this year, it will likely be the toughest of the three titles they will have captured.

In 2023, Ulsan had 50 points after 20 matches, with 16 wins, two draws and two losses. They enjoyed a 13-point lead over Pohang, and Ulsan ended up winning the title by 12 points.

Two years ago, Ulsan held a five-point lead over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at the 20-match mark, 43-38, and hung on to win the championship by three points.

“I am sure it’s fun for the people watching this, but for someone directly involved, this is quite stressful,” Ulsan head coach Hong Myung-bo said with a wry smile after his team’s loss Sunday. “There are a lot of matches still left. And I think it’s more exciting for the league to have a different team in first place every week, rather than to have one team dominate and everyone else play for second place.”

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