The race for the three relegation spots in professional soccer’s K League One went down to the wire in the final round.
Bottom-ranked Suwon Samsung and 11th-ranked Gangwon FC won side by side, while 10th-ranked Suwon FC lost, narrowing the gap between the three teams to one point.
Suwon defeated FC Seoul 1-0 in the 37th round of the Hana OneQ K League 1 2023 Final B at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on May 25.
With 32 points (35), Suwon is still not out of last place, but with the win, they are now level on points with 11th-place Suwon FC (32-43 points) and one point ahead of 10th-place Gangwon (33 points), who jumped to the top of the table after falling to a 0-2 defeat to FC Seoul earlier in the day.
In the K League 1, the bottom of the regular season drops directly to the second division next season, while the 10th and 11th place finishers have a chance to stay up through the promotion playoffs (PO).
With 7th-place Seoul, 8th-place Daejeon Hana Citizens, and 9th-place Jeju United already locked up in Final B this season, the battle for 10th-12th place between Suwon FC, Gangwon, and Suwon continues with each game.
Before this day, Suwon FC was 10th with 32 points, Gangwon was 11th with 30 points, and Suwon was last with 29 points, but on this day, Suwon and Gangwon won side by side and Suwon FC lost.
On December 2 at 2 p.m., Suwon and Gangwon will face off at Suwon World Cup Stadium in the final 38 rounds of Final B, while Suwon FC will welcome Jeju to their home turf at Suwon Sports Complex at the same time.
Suwon had the pleasure of securing the final showdown with Seoul in a “super match” after losing three straight earlier this season.
Seoul, who had already clinched seventh place at the top of Final B, maintained their 54 points.
In the 18th minute of the second half, Basani gave Suwon the lead for good when he dribbled in from near the center circle and hit a low, left-footed mid-range shot from the front of the penalty arc.
Seoul were left disappointed when Osmar was sent off in the 43rd minute as they were unable to make up the one-goal deficit.
The match was attended by 36,700 fans at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
Seoul has drawn a total of 432,929 fans in 19 home matches this season, surpassing the 400,000 mark in single-season home attendance for the first time since the 2018 season, when the K League began officially tracking only paying fans. It was also the first time the average attendance reached the 20,000 mark.
Seoul’s average attendance of 22,633 this season is also the highest for a single season in Korean professional sports, surpassing the Lotte Giants’ 21,901 in the 2008 KBO.
Gangwon took a step forward in the three-team race to avoid direct relegation with a 1-0 win over Suwon FC in Gangneung.
Kim Dae-won’s penetrating pass in the 19th minute found Lee Jeong-hyeop sliding in from the center of the penalty area for the game-winner, and Kim Jin-ho added a 37th-minute consolation goal.
After scoring his second goal of the season, Lee burst into tears as he looked to the sky, remembering his father-in-law who passed away earlier in the day.
In the other Final B match at Jeju World Cup Stadium, Daejeon defeated Jeju 2-0 in the 38th minute of the second leg thanks to a brace from Shin Sang-young and a goal from Kim In-gyun in stoppage time.
Eighth-ranked Daejeon, which snapped a three-match winless streak (two draws and one loss) entering the final round, moved to 50 points, while Jeju, which had already clinched ninth place, remained on 40 points.
Daejeon’s Thiago (16 goals), who is second in the league in scoring behind Ju In-gyu (Ulsan-17 goals), was unable to add to his tally on the day and had to settle for his sixth assist of the season, assisting on Shin Sang-sang’s goal.
In Final A, the race for the Asian stage came down to the wire.
Jeonbuk Hyundai stunned Gwangju FC 2-0 at home to remain unbeaten in their last five league matches (three wins, two draws) and leapfrog into fourth place with 57 points.
Jeonbuk’s Song Min-kyu was the star of the show, assisting Ahn Hyun-beom’s opening goal in the 17th minute and setting up his own goal in first-half stoppage time.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will split the Champions League (ACL) into the top-tier ACLE and the second-tier ACL2 starting in the 2024-2025 season.
With K League 1 champions Ulsan Hyundai and Korean Football Association (FA) Cup winners Pohang Steelers directly qualified for the ACLE, the ACLE playoffs and ACL2 spots are up for grabs.
Originally, the second-place team in the league after Ulsan would qualify for the ACLE playoffs, but with Pohang’s 1-0 victory over Daegu FC on Sunday to clinch second place (63 points), the third-place team will play in the ACLE playoffs and the fourth-place team will play in ACL2.
With the loss, third-place Gwangju, which remains on 58 points, fourth-place Jeonbuk, which has one point, and fifth-place Incheon United (56 points) all have a chance. Sixth-place Daegu (50 points) will miss out on the Asian stage next season. 사설토토