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Sputtering K League contenders stagger into rival match

13:38 May 18, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- They may be first and second in the K League 1 tables at the moment, but Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Ulsan Hyundai FC aren't exactly playing like the league's top two contenders.

Jeonbuk are mired in a season-worst four-match winless streak, with three draws and a loss. They're still in first place with 29 points after 14 matches thanks to a blazing start to the season. But they have since missed opportunities to run away from the rest of the competition and suffered their first loss of the season on May 9 against Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors players leave the pitch after losing to Suwon Samsung Bluewings 3-1 in a K League 1 match at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul, on May 9, 2021. (Yonhap)

Ulsan, despite having played one more match than Jeonbuk so far, are in second place with 27 points. They've wasted chances to move ahead or at least close the gap, with one win and four draws in their past five contests.

In each of the past two matches, Ulsan gave up the opening goals and played catch-up just to eke out draws.

It's against this backdrop that Jeonbuk will host Ulsan at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul.

It'll be their second meeting of the year. Their first match fizzled out in a scoreless draw, the first time that Jeonbuk's high-octane offense has been held scoreless all season.

Lee Dong-gyeong of Ulsan Hyundai FC (R) attempts a shot against Suwon Samsung Bluewings during a K League 1 match at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, 415 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on May 16, 2021. (Yonhap)

"The first meeting didn't live up to the hype, and we'll try to score more goals this time," Jeonbuk coach Kim Sang-sik said in a prematch press conference Monday.

His Ulsan counterpart, Hong Myung-bo, claimed that his players have put some bad recent history against Jeonbuk behind them and said, "Our players have shown a lot more confidence against Jeonbuk than previous seasons."

Uros Djeric of Suwon Samsung Bluewings (L) celebrates his goal against Ulsan Hyundai FC during a K League 1 match at Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, 415 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on May 16, 2021. (Yonhap)

Two teams directly below the top dogs, Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Daegu FC, will also clash at 7 p.m. Wednesday, with a chance to climb to second place.

Suwon are in third with 26 points after 16 matches, and have posted three wins and two draws in their past five.

Daegu, on the strength of the league-best six-match winning streak, have 25 points from 15 matches. They have outscored opponents 12-3 during their current run.

Daegu FC players celebrate their goal against Incheon United during a 3-0 victory in a K League 1 match at DGB Daegu Bank Park in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on May 8, 2021, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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