Reigning champions Ulsan beat Jeonbuk as Pohang rise to the top of the pile

The defending champions Ulsan Hyundai started the 2023 K League season on the right foot on Saturday, beating long-time rivals and last season’s runners-up Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-1 at home in Ulsan.

Jeonbuk’s Song Min-kyu scored the very first goal of the 2023 K League season in the 10th minute on opening day, giving his side an early lead. Ulsan quickly found their rhythm, however, and tied things up in the 43th minute with an Um Won-sang equalizer.

Swedish winger Gustav Ludwigson scored the winner shortly after the break, winning an airborne goalmouth scamble in the 64th minute to secure three points for the home side.

Jeonbuk’s ace Cho Gue-sung,스포츠토토 who was the league’s top scorer last season, failed to save his side as he could not get on the scoreboard, failing to manage one shot on target.

Saturday’s result was exactly the same as when the two sides last clashed in the league. Ulsan beat Jeonbuk 2-1 in October last year, which helped them go eight points clear on top of the table to win the title.

Jeonbuk, on the other hand, have not recorded a win against their rivals since last June, when they beat Ulsan 3-1. The following clash in August ended in a 1-1 draw.

Elsewhere in the league, FC Seoul secured an important three points on opening day with a 2-1 victory over Incheon United at their home stadium in Mapo District, western Seoul.

The capital side started the game without new captain Stanislav Iljutcenko, who was appointed two weeks ago. They instead chose Hwang Ui-jo, who is on a six-month loan from Premier League club Nottingham Forest, for an attacking option.

Hwang managed three shots on target, but failed to get on the scoresheet and was substituted for Kwon Wan-kyu in the 84th minute.

Despite Hwang’s performance, FC Seoul scored twice — a Lim Sang-hyub opener in the 29th minute and Kim Ju-sung security effort in the 70th minute. They conceded one goal in the 87th minute to Oh Ban-suk, but defended their victory in the end.

FC Seoul, who last won the league in 2016, are looking to recreate their old glory days this season with Hwang expected to boost their attack. The capital side tied on points with Daegu FC on 46 last season, but finished in ninth place as they scored nine goals less than eighth-place Daegu.

On Sunday, the Pohang Steelers marked a victory after a 3-2 comeback against Daegu at Pohang Steel Yard in Pohang, North Gyeongsang.

The Steelers, who came in third last season, were 2-1 behind until the 83rd minute, but Lee Ho-jae scored an equalizer in the 84th minute and added the winner in the 90th minute, earning three points for the team.

The Steelers put themselves on top of the table with their dramatic victory. K League rules stipulate that when teams are tied on points, goals scored is the next deciding factor.

Daejeon Hana Citizen beat Gangwon FC 2-0 on opening day to take second place, with Ulsan and Seoul coming in third. The two sides have the same points and same amount of goals, so Daejeon edges out the two other clubs on goal difference, the third deciding factor under K League rules.

FC Seoul is tied in third with Ulsan due to the same amount of points, goals scored, and goal difference.

Gwangju takes fifth after beating the Suwon Samsung Bluewings 1-0, with Jeju and Suwon FC splitting sixth place as the only two teams to end opening day on a draw.

The K League returns next Saturday, with Incheon United facing Daejeon at Incheon Football Stadium in Incheon at 2 pm The Steelers head north to take on Suwon FC on the same day, while Daegu face Jeju at their home stadium in Daegu.

Jeonbuk face the Bluewings on Sunday at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla. The defending champions Ulsan will head to Chuncheon, Gangwon to face Gangwon, while FC Seoul will travel south to Gwangju to play the newly-promoted side.

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