Womul’s title run has come to an end. Ulsan Hyundai has won its first back-to-back K League 1 titles since its inception. But their journey isn’t over yet. There are three more rounds to go.
The relegation battle at the bottom is now the main focus. The battle for last place is still in the air. Only one point separates last-place Suwon Samsung (26 points) and 11th-place Gangwon FC (27 points). Tenth-place Suwon FC (32 points) is also on the ropes, but they have a bit of a cushion. In K League 1, 12th place drops into the second division, while 10th and 11th place will decide their fate in a relegation playoff (PO) against a team from the second division. Avoiding the bottom of the table is the priority.
One more game awaits. The final three rounds of the Hana OneQ K League 1 2023 will be held on the 11th and 12th. Gangwon will play Daejeon Hana Citizen at Daejeon World Cup Stadium at 2 p.m. on the 11th, and Suwon will play Suwon FC at Suwon Sports Complex at 2 p.m. on the 12th in the ‘Suwon Derby’. Both teams have yet to find a way out. Suwon is winless in its last five matches (3 draws and 2 losses). In the last round, they hosted Jeju United and took a 1-0 lead, but conceded a late equalizer from Thul to draw 1-1.굿모닝토토 도메인
Suwon is also a ‘do-or-die’ team. They looked to be on their way to victory against Daejeon Hana Citizens on March 29, taking a 2-0 lead in the first half, but conceded two goals in the second half and failed to ‘break through’. There is one consolation. It’s been about three months since they scored multiple goals against Gangwon in July.
Suwon FC also has a long way to go: they need at least a draw in this round to stay out of the ‘last place war’. If they lose, they could be caught in the ‘vortex’ of Gangwon and Suwon. Suwon FC also has hopes of escaping the relegation PO. If 9th-placed Jeju United (39 points), who play at home against 7th-placed FC Seoul (53 points) on Nov. 11 (4 p.m.), loses and Suwon FC wins, the gap between the two teams will be reduced to four points. Suwon FC has won all three games in Suwon this season. Their head-to-head record against Gangwon Daejeon is less promising. They don’t have a single win. In three meetings, they’ve drawn one and lost two. Eighth-placed Daejeon (47 points) has already clinched a spot in the top flight. Kangwon can enjoy the reverse benefit.
In Final A, the fight for an Asian Champions League (ACL) ticket is down to the wire. With second-place Pohang Steelers (60 points) winning the FA Cup, the ‘international ticket’ goes to the fourth-place finisher in K League 1. The ACL will be reorganized for the 2024-2025 season. It will be split into two competitions: ACL Elite (ACLE) and ACL2. ‘Champions’ Ulsan have already claimed their ticket to the ACLE. As for the FA Cup winners, it is still unclear which competition they will be assigned to.
Pohang (60 points), Gwangju FC (57 points), and Jeonbuk Hyundai (53 points) are currently in second through fourth place. Fifth-place Incheon United (52 points) and sixth-place Daegu FC (49 points) are chasing the fourth spot. In Final A, Daegu hosts Gwangju at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 11, while Incheon faces Jeonbuk at 2 p.m. on Nov. 12 in Anbang. Incheon can clinch the fourth spot with a win. Gwangju can clinch its first ACL ticket since its inception with a win over Daegu.
Ulsan will host Pohang in the final “East Coast Derby” of the season at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 12 at Ulsan World Cup Stadium. The pride of the champions is on the line. It’s a “preview” of next season. The opening match is usually held between the winners of the K League and FA Cup. In this season’s ‘East Coast Derby’, Ulsan is the favorite with one win and two draws.
The race for the individual title is also close. Thiago (Ulsan – 16 goals) and In-Joo Kyu (Ulsan – 15 goals) are tied for the lead in goals. Leandro (Daejeon), Kim Seung-dae, Zeca (Pohang), and Doo Hyun-seok (Gwangju), who all have seven assists apiece, are looking to make a run at the title while the leader, Baek Sung-dong (Pohang-8), is sidelined with an injury.