The K League Newsletter for November and December 2021.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Make it Five Concesutive K League 1 Titles
Once again, the K League 1 title was decided on the final day of the season. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors sealed it after a 2-0 win over Jeju United for what was a record-extending fifth championship in a row. However, it was a first title as a manager for Kim Sang-suk. A Jeonbuk legend as a player, Kim guided the Green Warriors to 22 victories from 38 games, giving him a 59% win ratio. Jeonbuk's attack was led by Brazilian ace Gustavo and "first-class" Stanislav Iljutcenko who bagged 15 goals each. Both finish the season level to share the mantel of leading goalscorer. The duo also became the first Jeonbuk players to reach 15 goals in a single season since Lee Dong-gook (26) and Eninho (15) in 2012. Overall, Jeonbuk scored the most goals in K League 1 this season with 71, conceded the fewest with 38 and won 22 matches out of 38.
Gangwon FC became the first team to overcome a first-leg loss to go on and win the Promotion/Relegation Playoff Final. Led by Choi Yong-soo, Gangwon lost the first leg to Daejeon Hana Citizen 1-0 but then roared back to seal survival with a 4-1 win in the second leg in Gangneung. Gangwon even went 1-0 down in the second leg, leaving Choi Yong-soo and his side with a Seoraksan-sized mountain to climb. However, an own goal from Daejeon's Lee Ji-sol made it 1-1 on the day to spark a frenzied four-minute spell. Lim Chae-min made it two before Han Kook-young danced his way through to make it three. Hwang Mun-ki added the fourth late into the second half to put the gloss on an emphatic performance.
Jeonnam Dragons' Historic FA Cup Triumph
Meanwhile, Jeonnam Dragons became the first K League 2 team to win the FA Cup and, subsequently, the first K League 2 team to qualify for the AFC Champions League. The Dragons lost the first leg to Daegu FC 1-0 at home but the club's fourth FA Cup was sealed with a late winner by winger Jeong Jae-hee. Both Daegu and Jeonnam traded blows in a six-goal thriller at DGB Bank Park in a match that was a great advert for Korean football. Jeonnam will now go straight to the AFC Champions League Group Stage for 2022.
EA Sports Player of the Month - Hong Jeong-ho
Jeonbuk's Hong Jeong-ho was selected as the "EA Player of the Month" in November sponsored by K League's official video game partner Electronic Arts. It is Hong Jeong-ho's first individual award and Jeonbuk's second this season.
Hong beat Oh Se-hun (Ulsan), Joo Min-kyu (Jeju), and Aleksandar Paločević (FC Seoul), and Hong Jeong-ho (Jeonbuk). Throughout the evaluation period (Rounds 35-38), Hong played in all four of Jeonbuk's K League 1 matches and even scored in the Round 37 match against Daegu FC.
Gatorade G Moment - Moon Seon-min
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors winger Moon Seon-min won the Gatorade G Moment Award for November with his chipped goal against Daegu FC. Moon pipped Ahn Jin-beom of Seongnam FC thanks to a delicate chip over Sky Blues 'keeper Choi Young-eun on November 28th, making it 2-0 to the Green Warriors. Moon received 61.4% of the votes, Ahn 38.6%.
2021 K League Awards
For the first time in 24 years, a defender was named a K League MVP. Hong Jeong-ho was named as the most valuable player in K League 1 for 2021 while Joo Min-kyu's 22 goals for Jeju United earned him the 2021 K League 1 top goalscorer award in what was the first for a South Korean player since 2016. Seol Young-woo of Ulsan Hyundai was named as K League 1 Young Player of the Year, that accolade went to Kim In-gyun of Chungnam Asan in K League 2. The K League 2 awards were held separately again in 2021 and took place at the end of November. An Byong-jun's 23 goals for Busan IPark earned him the MVP Award as well as the prize of being the division's top goalscorer. Manager-wise, Kim Sang-sik of Jeonbuk won the K League 1 prize while Kim Tae-wan of Gimcheon Sangmu won it in K League 2.
"It is surreal, I mean, I think we deserve to be there. We deserve to be in the final going off how we played in the competition. But in the league, we haven't been consistent and it's cost us at times and the position in the league that we're in is probably justified. But we've been absolutely immense in the Champions League, and the boys have stepped up we've deserved to be in the final. So, it's going to be an amazing experience for every player because it's not often you can say you can get to a final, it's extremely hard to get to any final whether it be domestically or in a competition as big as the Champions League."
Bruno Baio on Daejeon's passing style:
"We work a lot on these combinations in training, these types of passes [as seen in 2-1 goal vs Anyang] and these types of movements. When you have really technical players, like our team, it's easier there on the field, you only need to make a small move, and you can get the ball in the box to score or to assist a teammate."