Seoul Stroll To K-League Title

Seoul stroll to the title

John Duerden

Dejan Damjanovic.It was easy in the end. For a while Jeonbuk Motors looked as if they were going to make a race of it but two wins from the last eight gave FC Seoul the opportunity to clinch the K-league title with three games to spare.

Heading into match number 41 of the season, Jeonbuk were ten points behind and needed a win against Ulsan at home to keep their faint hopes alive. Despite facing opposition already preparing for the FIFA Club World Cup next month, Jeonbuk found themselves 3-1 down at half-time to Ulsan's second string.

That meant that by the time Seoul kicked off against Jeju in the capital, they were basically champions. By the time Jeonbuk fought back for a 3-3 draw, Seoul were coming out on to the pitch for the second half and looking very pleased with themselves.

In the end the result didn't matter but Seoul collected a 1-0 win to make it 14 games unbeaten. As the points gap suggests, the team from the capital have been easily the most consistent over a very long season.

The "Demolition Duo" of Dejan Damjanovic and Mauricio Molina have rightly received much of the praise that has been heading to the northwest of the capital. Damjanovic has already scored 30 goals this season, the highest total ever, although this season has more games than most. Even so, it is impressive. Molina has been almost as eye-catching with 17 goals and numerous assists.

With the classy midfield duo of Ha Dae-sung and Koh Myung-jin behind, Seoul have the ability to score goals against any defence. And if they are accused of being too reliant on their pair of stars, fans won't mind too much if titles continue to flow.

Ulsan Take the title

If Seoul dominated the K-League then Ulsan Horangi were imperious in their charge to the Asian champions League title. Nine consecutive wins, 27 goals scored and no defeats, it was another deserved win.

The final, in front of 42,000 fans at the Munsu Stadium in the south-eastern city, was a night to remember. Ulsan took an early lead against Al Ahli from Saudi Arabia and did not look back. The visitors rarely looked like getting a foothold in the game and when, midway through the second half, Rafinha added to Kwak Tae-hwi's opener, it was all over.

Ulsan are now preparing for the Club World Cup in Japan next month. If the Tigers can beat Monterrey of Mexico, then a date with European champions Chelsea awaits.

It remains to be seen if star attacker Lee Keun-ho is there. The Asian Champions League MVP, who is also the favourite to be named the 2012 AFC Player of the Year, is due to start his military service on December 10. He may be allowed to delay a few days, he will have a better excuse than most.

At the bottom

If all the issues in the top half of the table are sorted then attention turns to the bottom where the first ever relegation fight in Korean history is hotting up. Sangju Sangmu are already down but there is one more place in the second division waiting and it looks as if it will go to either Gwangju or Gangwon.

Both are fighting with all they have. Before a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Chunnam Dragons in midweek, Gangwon had taken 11 points from the previous five games, inspired by the talented Zicu, the Romanian on loan from Pohang Steelers who banged in seven goals in that mini-run with three assists to boot. With the veteran Kim Eun-jung now coming off the bench to score vital goals, things are looking up.

But then Gwangju have eight points from their last four, including an amazing 4-3 win from 3-0 down at Seongnam Ilhwa in the middle of November. This kind of form from both teams means that neither Daejeon Citizen or Seongnam Ilhwa can completely relax but it would be a major shock if they were dragged down to the second level.

More national team woes

The result wasn't important until it is and a friendly defeat at home to Australia on November 15 annoyed fans and media a little, coming on the back on the loss to Iran in October. It was an experimental Korean side but after a bright start and the opening goal, the Taeguk Warriors lost their way on a cold night in the city of Hwaseong. For the second straight game, few chances were created and the team quickly ran out of ideas.

The big-name foreign-based stars will be back for the all-important qualifier against Qatar in March and they will be welcomed back with open arms.

Speaking of which…

The European leaguers have been in decent form of late. Olympic captain Koo Ja-cheol returned from a two-month injury lay-off to score for Augsburg in the Bundesliga while Son Heung-min grabbed his sixth of the season for Hamburg.

Down in Spain, Park Chu-young managed his second for Celta Vigo while Park Ji-sung is close to fitness for winless QPR and could return for the visit to Old Trafford this weekend. He may be advised to sit it out against his former club.

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