K-Popping Part 3: My Delve into South Korean League Football

Introduction

To read the previous parts to my delves into the 2019 K League season, they can be found below:

2019 has been the first year where I have been watching and keeping a close eye on the South Korean K League, a league which I had little knowledge of, prior to starting this investigation and research. However throughout the year, I have slowly gained more and more knowledge of South Korean league football, whilst appreciating the excitement, quality and performances of the K League, as well as getting to know more about its teams and various players.

K-League Logo

Considering I had wrote two previous ‘K-Popping‘ articles throughout the season, it was only fitting that I should write a third part to this series now that the 2019 K League season has finally concluded. Therefore, this third part is a round-up of the 2019 K League season, and the events that occurred towards the end of the season, which provided so much excitement and intrigue for a K League rookie like myself!

 

K League 1

  • Champions: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
  • Runners-Up: Ulsan Hyundai
  • AFC Champions League: FC Seoul
  • Relegation Playoff: Gyeongnam FC
  • Relegated: Jeju United
  • Top Goalscorer: Adam Taggart (Suwon Bluewings) – 20 goals

 

Top Six – Final A

2019 K League Final A Table
The Final A table for the 2019 K League 1 Top Six. [IMAGE: Wikipedia]

With just two games remaining of the K1 season, Ulsan Hyundai led the K1 Final A (the top six) table by three points from the defending champions, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, and were looking like strong favourites to claim their third league title in their history, and their first since 2005. 

Ulsan HyundaiUlsan could have won the league title in the penultimate game of the season as the fixtures had arranged for them to come up against their title rivals. A home win against Jeonbuk would have seen the Horangi claim the title with a game remaining in front of their adoring fans. Unfortunately for the Ulsan fans, the league leaders could only earn themselves a nervy comeback 1-1 draw, but the draw still left the fate of the title race in their own hands going into the final game of the season. They would only need a single point at home against their east coast rivals, Pohang Steelers, and they would be champions again.

In yet another nervy encounter at the Munsu, Wanderson gave Pohang an early lead before Júnior Negrão levelled the scores before half-time. The Steelers would regain the lead in the 56th minute through Stanislav Iljutcenko, forcing the home side to attack and look for that crucial equaliser. With time ticking away rapidly, and Ulsan needing a second goal, Korean and Ulsan number one, Kim Seunggyu, then committed one of the worst goalkeeping blunders you will ever see. In an attempt to get the ball back in play quickly, he rushed over and attempted to throw the ball to his team mate. Unfortunately for the mid-season signing from J.League 1 side, Vissel Kobe, his throw-in went to Pohang’s Heo Yongjoon who simply fired the ball into the empty net on the 88th minute. Ulsan were literally throwing the league championship away!

To compound the misery upon the Horangi fans, Pohang made it 4-1 deep into injury time when Wanderson was brought down in the area, and a penalty was given via VAR. Aleksandar Paločević slotted home the penalty to give Pohang a fourth goal and ensure Ulsan would not win the league title. Absolutely heartbreaking for the Ulsan fans to see their team throw it away, and puts massive pressure on their manager Kim Dohoon, who was far too cautious in his tactics in their final two games.

Pohang SteelersPohang were the in-form side going into the final league games, having gone on an impressive run during the last third of the regular season to claim a top six place in the final games before the league split. They then continuing that momentum throughout the final five games against the other Final A teams by winning two and drawing two games. It would be doubly sweet for Pohang as they inflicted yet another catastrophic final day defeat on their east coast rivals.In very similar circumstances towards the end of the 2013 season, Pohang defeated Ulsan 1-0 to leapfrog them and snatch away the league title. Lightning had struck twice for Ulsan!!

Jeonbuk Hyundai MotorsWith Ulsan effectively bottling the championship at the Munsu, the defending champions needed a victory over Gangwon to reclaim their league title. In another nervy match at Jeonju, a 40th minute strike from Son Joonho was just enough to give the Nokseakjeonsa a home win, and crucially the championship! Jeonbuk would win their third title in a row, and record-equalling seventh title in their history, but in the closest possible manner! Winning the title by a single goal more than their fellow Hyundai rivals. Winning the title also ensured that ex-Barnsley manager, Jose Morais, won the league in his debut season in the K League, and claimed the end of season ‘K1 Manager of the Year’ award for his efforts.

FC SeoulJust as the title was to be decided on the final day, so too was the third place position and the final AFC Champions League (ACL) qualifying spot. With one game remaining, it was realistically a battle between FC Seoul and Daegu (although Pohang still had an outside chance if they scored a lot of goals against Ulsan…). Rather conveniently for all K League fans, the two competitors would square off against each other on the final day of the season. The winner of the contest at the DGB Daegu Bank Park would be guaranteed themselves an ACL playoff spot for the 2020 edition of the continental competition.

Daegu FCDespite both teams attempting to get the crucial opening goal, it never appeared throughout the 90 minutes of play and resulted in an entertaining, if slightly anti-climatic, 0-0 draw. This draw was enough for the capital-based team and ensured FC Seoul would be returning to the ACL for the first time in three years by clinching the third place spot. Daegu finished in 5th position in the end, one point behind Seoul and Pohang. A slightly disappointing finish for the Sky Blues considering they were looking like they were fighting for the title at one point during the early season, and could have earned the spot had they won more than just one of their final five games. One bonus though is that they still have THE BEST MASCOTS!!

Gangwon FCThe surprise package of the season, Gangwon, finished in sixth place and five points behind Daegu. Their form stuttering towards the back end of the season as a result of injuries and suspensions, which saw them fall away from the ACL spots. However their attacking, passing play style, cheekily nicknamed “Byungsoo Ball” (after their manager Kim Byungsoo) could be considered a huge success for this season and impressed many pundits throughout their K1 campaign. Not to mention, their T-Rex fan gained many admirers for his commitment to the cause, wearing his costume in all weathers and roaring his team on…

 

Bottom Six – Final B

2019 K League Final B Table
The 2019 Final B, K League 1 table for the bottom six. [IMAGE: Wikipedia]

Despite having one of the stronger looking squads in the K League 1, and predicted to challenge for an AFC qualifying spot prior to the season starting, Jeju United suffered a very surprising relegation to K2. Despite having struggled for most of the season, it was assumed that there was enough quality in the Islanders’ squad to lift themselves to safety. Unfortunately that form never materialised.

Jeju United FCTheir relegation was confirmed in Jeju’s penultimate match at home against Suwon Bluewings. Despite finding themselves 2-1 up at half time, they conceded three unanswered goals from the Bluewings in the second half, to send them down with a whimper. It is Jeju’s first ever relegation in their history having played in the K League through all of their variations. It also means they’ll now face Bucheon 1995 in an interesting derby in next season’s K2 campaign. Bucheon was their home between 1997 and 2005, before controversially moving over to Jeju Island, situated off the southern coast of the Korean peninsula.

Incheon UnitedFor yet another season, Incheon United achieved the ‘great escape’ once again having spent the vast majority of the season firmly entrenched within the bottom two places of the K1 table. They were the second lowest scorers in the league (behind Seongnam), but goals from their star striker, the Montenegrin international Stefan Mugoša, towards the end of the season, proved crucial to their survival. They avoided the precarious relegation playoff spot, and secured 10th position, when they managed to fight for a scrappy goalless draw away at Gyeongnam in their final game, to maintain their tenure in the K1 by a single point from their opponents.

Sadly, it would be a bittersweet and a highly emotional occasion for the Durumi as they may have avoided relegation once again, but the mastermind of their miraculous escape, manager Yoo Sangchul (one of the heroes of that amazing 2002 Korean World Cup squad and a K League legend), was heart-breakingly confirmed with battling against Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in November.

Gyeongnam FCAs a result of the draw against Incheon, Gyeongnam would be the team who would surprisingly finish in 11th position and into the relegation playoff against a K2 team. Despite finishing in second position last year and having a talented squad of players, the combination of an injury crisis throughout the season, poor defending, and a lack of consistent form ensured they would finish in the playoff spot. Even more surprising considering they had made their impressive and competitive debut in the ACL in 2019 also, although not having a big enough squad to compete on multiple fronts, certainly hampered their mid-season form.

Seongnam FCThe promoted side, Seongnam, managed to comfortably maintain their K1 status by finishing in a respectable ninth position and 12 points clear of the playoff spot. Although their defense was clearly their strong point to the season, conceding just 40 goals (the fourth best in K1), a distinct lack of goals was their Achilles heel during the season. The Magpies only scored 30 goals from their 38 games, and being the worst in the whole of K1. Their top scorer being the Brazilian, Éder, who scored just 5 goals throughout the campaign and was injured for a good chunk of the season.

Sangju_Sangmu_FCSangju Sangmu finished top of the Final B group in seventh place. Certainly a very impressive finish for the military side, who had lost most of their best players midway through the season (returning to their parent clubs as their mandatory military service had finished). Under Kim Taewan’s astute leadership, the Bulsajo were positioned between 5th and 7th for the majority of the season, and only just missed out on obtaining a top six place during the league split. All the more impressive when they were considered to be one of the relegation favourites at the start of the season.

Suwon_Samsung_BluewingsFinally, Suwon Samsung Bluewings disappointingly finished in 8th position, and 7 points behind Sangju. An 1-4 end of season loss to Sangju summing up their bad league form throughout the season. They will certainly need a lot of improvement if they’re to compete in the ACL next season (more of that later on). However they did have the league’s top goalscorer in the form of Australian Adam Taggart, who signed for the Bluewings from A-League side, Brisbane Roar. In his 32 league appearances for Suwon, the Socceroo international managed to score an impressive 20 goals – an impressive rookie season! Most certainly one of the few highlights in a disappointing league campaign for the Bluewings.

 

K1 Awards

  • K1 MVP: Kim Bokyung

Kim BokyungThe former Cardiff City and Wigan Athletic attacking midfielder was awarded the K1 MVP award for 2019. On loan from the new J2 League champions, Kashiwa Reysol, he managed to score 13 goals for the Horangi, and also achieved 9 assists for them during the season from his attacking midfield role. It will be interesting if he returns back to the K League for the following season, or whether he will help his parent club compete in the J1 League in 2020.

The majority of players in the ‘K1 Team of the Year’ were naturally made up of the title challengers, Jeonbuk and Ulsan players, with three players coming from each of rivals. The league’s MVP, Kim Bokyung was obviously chosen, as well as Jeonbuk’s Moon Seonmin who has had an excellent season for the champions, being joint assist maker with 10 assists this season and called up for the Korean EAFF E-1 Championship squad.

Cho Hyeonwoo continued his run of being the best keeper in the league, with many foreign suitors no doubt keen to obtain his services in the January transfer window. His teammate, the Brazilian Cesinha, appeared in the Best XI, and could have been considered a worthy K1 MVP this season also – he was certainly my pick for the season’s MVP on the whole anyway having scored 15 goals and provided 10 assists. Fellow countryman, Wanderson, produced a superb season for the Steelers and contributed to their rise up the table through his 15 goals and 9 assists. Finally the two highest league goalscorers in Taggart and Júnior were naturally selected as the best forwards of the season, although I think Incheon’s Mugoša was not far behind as he had a brilliant second half of the season, and crucial to Incheon’s survival.

  • GK: Cho Hyeonwoo (Daegu)
  • DF: Hong Chul (Suwon B)
  • DF: Hong Jeongho (Jeonbuk)
  • DF: Lee Yong (Jeonbuk)
  • DF: Kim Taehwan (Ulsan)
  • MF: Moon Seonmin (Jeonbuk)
  • MF: Kim Bokyung (Ulsan)
  • MF: Cesinha (Daegu)
  • MF: Wanderson (Pohang)
  • FW: Adam Taggart (Suwon B)
  • FW: Júnior Negrão (Ulsan)

 

 

K League 2

League Campaign

  • Champions: Gwangju FC
  • Runners-Up: Busan IPark
  • Playoffs: FC Anyang, Bucheon 1995
  • Top Goalscorer: Felipe (Gwangju FC) – 19 goals

 

2019 K League 2 Table
The 2019 K League 2 table. [IMAGE: Wikipedia]
Gwangju FC

Gwangju were the runaway winners of this season’s K2 championship (much to my delight!), having lead the table for nearly every gameweek during the season bar two weeks, and leading the table since Gameweek 14.Their drive to the championship title was led by Brazilian target man, Felipe’s 19 goals this season, as well as significant inputs from Willyan Barbosa, Lee Euddeum and Kim Junghwan. However it was their defence which was certainly the strongest section of the squad, conceding a league-best 31 goals in 36 games (with seven of them goals surprisingly coming in just one game against Anyang), with Uzbek international, Rustam Ashurmatov, being the lynch pin in the Yellows defence. They won the league with a few games to spare, and ensured Park Jinsub’s team would return to the K1 after two years away. Certainly the ideal situation to open their new smaller stadium, which is scheduled to open next year and located right next to the Guus Hiddink Stadium!

Busan IParkWith Gwangju winning the title, it meant that Busan IPark once again finished in second position and qualified for the end-of-season playoffs. The Reds certainly gave Gwangju a title challenge, and looked as if they could overtake them at one point, but Busan’s inconsistency and proneness to conceding late goals, ensured their challenge would ultimately falter. Despite that, they were the best attacking side in the league, scoring an amazing 71 goals during the league campaign, and had four of their players in the top eight goalscorers in the league. Lee Dongjun, Rômulo and Lee Jeonghyeop each scoring 13 goals, with Hungarian Soma Novothny getting 12 goals to his name.

FC AnyangAnyang were one of the more entertaining teams in this season’s K2 campaign, showing great attacking football throughout the year. They ended up finishing in 3rd place, and being the second highest scorers in the league with 63 goals, with Cho Kyuseong scoring 14 of them (and finishing third in the goalscoring charts). The Purples’ highlight of the season coming when they ended Gwangju’s undefeated streak by smashing them 7-1 in one of the season’s most shocking results. In addition, temporary stands added to their Anyang Stadium, allowing their supporters to be nearer to the pitch, has created a much better atmosphere for the team and has boosted attendances for the side. It has seen the side get a +142% increase in their average attendance!

Bucheon FC 1995Bucheon 1995 achieved one of the ‘miracles’ of the season when they come from nowhere by winning their last five games of the season to snatch the final playoff spot away from Ansan Greeners at the end of the regular season. An incredible achievement for the side who had languished in mid-table for the vast majority of the year. Song Sunho’s side produced some amazing attacking flair to achieve important results towards the back-end of the campaign. In their final game against Suwon FC, they fought a scrappy game but managed to win the game through a Nilson penalty and earn that final playoff spot right at the death!

Ansan GreenersIt looked as if Ansan Greeners were nailed-on for a playoff spot having found themselves in the playoff spots with a healthy margin from potential rivals. Plus they had the second best defence in the league, after the league leaders. However they suffered a loss in form at the worst possible time by losing their last three games and throw away their playoff chances, by dropping into 5th position on the final day of the season. A surprising 1-2 defeat by Jeonnam Dragons, conceding a brace from Bruno Baio in a tepid performance, ensured the Green Wolves would continue in the K2 for another season. Even though they fell away at the end of the season, there were a lot of positives for Ansan, and could potentially be one of the title challengers next season.

Jeonnam DragonsJeonnam Dragons’ season has been a fairly miserable one, considering they were one of the favourites to return back to K1 after having been relegated from the top flight in 2018. Nonetheless, the 3-time KFA Cup winners never got beyond eighth position in the league until Gameweek 31. This cost Fabiano his job as manager of the Dragons, as he was replaced by caretaker manager Jeon Kyungjin in late July. Under his temporary care, the Dragons saw their performance and results eventually improve, gaining 10 points from a possible 15 in their final five matches, which saw them lift up to sixth position. Just three points from the playoffs in the end. Had the change in management happened sooner, perhaps Jeonnam might have been in the playoffs…

Asan MugunghwaDespite a solid first half to the season, defending K2 champions, Asan Mugunghwa, finished the season in 7th place. Their form affected by a majority of their loaned players (such as their top scorer Ko Mooyeol) returning to their parent clubs in the mid-season, which saw the former police side sadly slide out of the playoff spots. It will also be the final season of the club in this format, as the team will fully transition from a police owned team into a citizen club (one owned by the local government). Initially, there were worrying plans that an Asan team would not return for the 2020 K2 season, but those fears were allayed when the Asan city government said the team would indeed return, although under a new name and with new colours and badge.

Suwon FCSuwon FC finished in a lowly eighth position in the K2, a disappointment considering they had been as high as third place at one stage in the season. Sadly their form tailed off towards the second half of the season and they slowly drifted down the table to finish their season eight points adrift of the playoffs. They can take some highlights from the season, as they were the highest goalscorers in the league outside of the top four. Plus their star striker, the Nigerian Chisom Egbuchulam, finished second in the K2 goalscoring charts with 18 goals. Unfortunately, they had the third-worst defence in the league, and this contributed to their end of season form which saw them pick up just four points from a final fifteen available.

Daejeon CitizenDaejeon Citizen’s season was ultimately a turgid one. It started brightly but they would be fighting with Seoul E-Land for the majority of the season for the ninth position. In the end, they managed to secure ninth by drawing 2-2 with E-Land in Gameweek 34, and ultimately finishing ten points clear of them, but eight points adrift of Suwon. Daejeon’s defence was certainly their stand-out performers of the season, having only conceded just 47 goals during the campaign (joint third best), but their attack was absolutely dire. They only scored 31 goals from their 36 games, with only Romanian Aurelian Chiţu and Brazilian Matheus Pato scoring more than three goals, scoring six goals each. However 2020 looks more promising for Daejeon, as they have been taken over by KEB Hana Bank (the sponsors of the K League), and look set to heavily invest in the team. Next season could be very exciting for Daejeon!

Seoul E-LandAlas propping up the K League for the second year in a row was Seoul E-Land. It has been a season of movement for the Leopards, having played a vast majority of their season in Cheonan (roughly 60 miles south of Seoul) whilst the Jamsil was renovated. In addition, they changed their manager midway through the season, replacing Kim Hyunsoo with Woo Sungyong until the end of the season. Sadly for E-Land, they never reached higher than eighth throughout the whole season, and ended up with the worst defence in the entire league with 71 goals conceded. However as with Daejeon, 2020 looks to be more positive for the Leopards as they have appointed Chung Jungyong as their new manager. He managed to take South Korea to the U20 World Cup final in 2019, so it’s a bit of a coup they got him. In addition, the attendance figures for 2019 were hugely positive for Seoul E-Land, as it saw their average attendance rise by 352%! Perhaps the Leopards will finally roar into life next season…

To read about an account of Seoul E-Land’s season, read K League United‘s Michael Redmond’s article about his year following and supporting E-Land:

https://www.kleagueunited.com/2019/12/not-so-lonely-at-bottom-year-in-life-of.html

 

K2 Awards

  • MVP: Lee Dongjun (Busan IPark)

Lee DongjunThe Busan young midfielder won the K2 MVP award having scored 13 league goals and assisted seven times. The winger, who made his debut in March 2017, is certainly one of the brightest stars in Korean football currently. With his three years at the IPark, he has scored 19 goals in 67 appearances, as well as scoring 4 goals in 7 appearances for the Korean under 23 squad in 2019. No doubt a full Korean international in the very near future, and maybe the next K League star who could venture to Europe!

The ‘K2 Team of the Year’ is as follows, with the majority of the side made up of Gwangju, Busan and Anyang players, the three best teams in K2 this year. Unsurprisingly Egbuchulam from Suwon was chosen in the XI considering he was the second-best goalscorer in the league. However, very surprisingly, top goalscorer Felipe was not included in the Best XI but that could have been down to his poor disciplinary record rather than his goals scored.

  • GK: Yoon Pyeonggook (Gwangju)
  • DF: Lee Euddeum (Gwangju)
  • DF: Nilson Júnior (Bucheon)
  • DF: Rustam Ashurmatov (Gwangju)
  • DF: Kim Moonhwan (Busan)
  • MF: Kim Sangwon (Anyang)
  • MF: Alex Lima (Anyang)
  • MF: Lee Dongjun (Busan)
  • MF: Rômulo (Busan)
  • FW: Cho Kyuseong (Anyang)
  • FW: Chisom Egbuchulam (Suwon)

 

 

Promotion / Relegation Playoffs

With Anyang and Bucheon 1995 finishing in third and fourth positions in the K2 league, they would be competing in the one-legged playoff semi-final, with the winner taking on Busan IPark in the K2 playoff final. Playing at the Anyang Stadium, the home side took the lead after eleven minutes through their on-loan Colombian forward, Manuel Palacios. Bucheon managed to level the scores up with twelve minutes remaining through an An Taehyun strike, but they could not find a second to send them through to the K2 playoff final. The game ended 1-1, but because of an interesting rule in Korea, it would be Anyang who progressed to the match against Busan because they had finished higher in the K2 table.

In the K2 playoff final, it would be Busan IPark taking on FC Anyang, with the winner taking on Gyeongnam in the two-legged promotion / relegation playoffs. In a tightly-fought match, Busan came out on top, with Rômulo scoring the only goal of the game (and what a goal it was!!) at around the hour mark, to give the home side the victory over the third-placed team. For the third consecutive year, Busan would be competing in the relegation/promotion playoff games. In 2018, they lost 2-4 on aggregate to FC Seoul, whilst they lost to Sangju Sangmu on penalties in 2017 after drawing 1-1.

In the relegation/promotion playoffs, the first leg, which was played at the Busan Gudoek Stadium, finished a goalless draw. As a result, Gyeongnam were favourites going into the second leg of the playoffs, at home, at the Changwon Football Centre. Despite some spurned chances from the home side, a penalty in the 78th minute from the lethal Rômulo gave Busan the slender advantage, and an away goal. It would be a nervy ten minutes before a 95th minute injury time winner from Soma Novothny ensured IPark would be experiencing K1 football again for the first time since 2015. It was third time lucky for Busan, whilst it was the nightmare end to a nightmare season for the Roses as they suffered relegation to K2.

 

 

Korean FA Cup

Semi-Finals

As mentioned in my second part of my delve into the K League, the two Korean Cup semi-final matches involved a K1 team taking on a lower league team, who had achieved their fair share of cupsets to reach the final four of the competition. The cup favourites Suwon Bluewings took on Hwaseong FC in one semi-final, whilst Sangju Sangmu faced Daejeon Korail in the other.

Hwaseong_FCIn the first legs, Daejeon Korail drew 1-1 with Sangju Sangmu, with Ryu Seungwoo giving the military side the lead, before an injury time equaliser from Lee Keunwon ensured the third-tier side were still in the tie. Whereas in the other fixture, another cupset occurred where fourth-tier Hwaseong achieved an impressive 1-0 victory over Suwon Bluewings. Moon Junho’s twenty-second minute strike being the decider to give the K3 Advanced side a lead in the tie. If the ties had been just one legged, then it’s very possible it could have been a non-K League cup final!

In the second legs, Suwon’s Yeom Kihun scored in the 59th minute to level the aggregate score up and eliminate Hwaseong’s advantage from the first leg. With the score still at 1-1 after 90 minutes, the tie naturally went into extra time. Yeom Kihun added his second and third goals of the evening on the 107th and 110th minute to finally end Hwaseong’s fairy-tale story and send the Bluewings into the final 3-1 on aggregate.

Sangju_Sangmu_FCIn the other semi-final game, it looked as if Korail had sealed their passage into the final having by scoring an 89th minute winner through Jang Wonseok. But it would be heartbreak for the Iron Horses, as Sangju levelled the scores up in the third minute of injury time to ensure the game also went into extra time. Sangju took the lead through a penalty in the 102nd minute from Kang Sangwoo, but gutsy Korail fought back with Lee Kyungmin scoring an equaliser in the 106th minute. With extra time not be able to split the two teams, it was left to a penalty shootout to decide who would be going into the final. In the end, it would be the third-tier team who held their nerve more, to win the tie 4-2 on penalties!

 

The Final

Daejeon Korail’s route to the final:

  • R3: Jeonju University (h) 2 – 1 (aet)
  • R4: Ulsan Hyundai (h) 2 – 0
  • R5: Seoul E-Land (h) 2 – 0
  • QF: Gangwon FC (h) 2 – 0
  • SF: Sangju Sangmu (1-1, 2-2) 3 – 3 on agg. [4-2 on pens]

 

Suwon Bluewings’ route to the final:

  • R4: Pohang Steelers (h) 1 – 0
  • R5: Gwangju FC (h) 3 – 0
  • QF: Gyeongju Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power FC (h) 2 – 2 (aet) [3-1 on pens]
  • SF: Hwaseong FC (0-1, 3-0) 3 – 1 on agg.

 

In the first leg of the final, which was first played at Daejeon, the game ended up as a goalless affair with neither side able to gain an advantage. Therefore the second leg at Suwon would essentially become a one-legged final, with the winner of the second leg (either after 90 minutes, 120 minutes or even penalties) winning the KFA Cup.

Daejeon_Korail_FCSuwon took an early lead through Ko Seungbeom in the 15th minute, although Korail’s solid defence certainly made it tough for the home side, and they continued to threaten the Bluewings goal. It looked as if they had levelled the scores up, and made the game very interesting when they appeared to have scored a legitimate goal. However the officials chalked off the goal for apparent offside, although on the replays, it looked as if the player was certainly onside. A very harsh decision for the away side, which would have repercussions on the game. Not long after the disallowed goal, and Suwon doubled their lead through Ko Seungbeom once again, and it would be the killer goal for Daejeon. With Korail players now physically tired from their exertions, Suwon punished them two more times through Kim Minwoo on the 77th minute and Yeom Kihun in the 85th minute, to give Suwon a somewhat flattering 4-0 win on the night, and 4-0 aggregate victory.

Suwon_Samsung_BluewingsThe Bluewings claimed their fifth KFA Cup victory, and as a result, it means that they have automatically qualified for the group stage of the 2020 AFC Champions League. It was also a stay of execution for head coach Lee Limsaeng, who had threatened to resign had he not managed to win the KFA Cup. However the pressure is still upon him after a poor performance in the K League, and not playing K League icon Dejan, so it will be interesting to see how the club reacts during the post season and the start of next season.

 

 

Sources of Information

For my three parts of my delve into the K League during this first season, I have used the following excellent sources of Korean football information to try and improve my K League football knowledge throughout the year. If you haven’t already checked them out, please visit their websites, listen to the podcasts, or follow them on their social media accounts. They are excellently produced by people who are absolute experts in Korean and Asian football, and they’re really top people also! Tell them I sent you! 😉

 

 

Conclusion

…and there we have it!

The season has finally concluded with Jeonbuk as champions (once again) after Ulsan’s dramatic implosion on the final day of the season. Whilst FC Seoul return to the top table of Asian football at the expense of Daegu FC (I feel sorry for that poor hedgehog mascot…). At the opposite end of the table, Jeju United and Gyeongnam FC dramatically fall from the top flight, only to be replaced by a resurgent Busan IPark and the excellent Gwangju FC (YAAAAAAAAAASSSSSS!!). Sadly Daejeon Citizen and Seoul E-Land propped up the league, but seem to have exciting futures ahead of them. It makes me excited to see what will happen in the 2020 season – perhaps promotion awaits??

I have learnt so much throughout this first year of watching the K League and South Korea, and I have enjoyed every second of it (perhaps with the exception of that Anyang result against Gwangju…), and I am thoroughly looking forward to expanding my knowledge further in 2020. I would like to thank all the people involved in the above sources for providing me with information throughout the year, and a massive thanks to K League United for answering my many…many…many questions in their numerous podcasts. In addition, I have made many new friends during this journey, and I am very grateful that I decided to follow up on a query I had about Asian football one day. You guys are awesome!!

If there you have any feedback, comments or suggestions about this blog or the K-Popping series in general so far, let me know either below in the comments box, tweet me @The94thMin or email me at the94thminute@gmail.com! It would be good to hear what you think about this series, and what have been your favourite moments of the 2019 K League season!

A massive thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next season!

감사

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s