An early red card helped send Jeonbuk from the ranks of the unbeaten, but the leaders kept their spot atop the table when Gwangju frustrated Ulsan.
Gangwon 1-0 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
A last-man back foul on Jeong-ho Hong in the 15th-minute put the visitors in a bad place, and Gangwon got all it needed to move into fifth when Mu-yeol Ko nabbed a goal in the 37th.
The goal was set-up by a nice cut and cross from Keyong-jung Kim, who sent Ko a terrific invitation for the match’s lone marker (2:17 of the video below).
Gwangju 1-1 Ulsan Hyundai
This, however, was the surprise result of the weekend.
The hosts entered with three losses to open the season and Ulsan would’ve known a table lead was within its grasp if it could collect all three points.
Ulsan dominated the match with 76 percent possession and a 20-9 advantage in shots, but was behind after a dozen minutes on Wong-sang Eom’s opener. Eom was calm when his clever pass to Felipe Silva ended up back on his path.
A dangerous cross that took a tricky turn for an own goal turned out to be Ulsan’s only route onto the scoreboard, and the 1-1 draw keeps them a point back of Jeonbuk.
Daegu 1-1 Sangju Sangmu
Busan 0-0 Suwon Samsung Bluewings
FC Seoul 0-1 Seongnam
Incheon United 1-4 Pohang Steelers
Below we take a look at the action with video highlights as South Korea’s top-flight continues to see plenty of tight games play out.
Jeonbuk are the early frontrunners, as expected, but Ulsan are unbeaten and both Seoul and Sangju Sangmu have won two of their first three games.
Jeonbuk Motors 2-0 Daegu
The reigning champs have started the season in fine form as Jeonbuk took control of the game in the second half. Murilo scored a fine individual goal just after half time to put them ahead, then Cho Kyu-Sung sealed the victory as Daegu were dominated. Both teams had a player sent off for lunging tackles late on as Kim Seon-Min was sent off for Daegu and goalscorer Kyu-Sung saw red for Jeonbuk. Jose Morais’ team were good value for their win and should have won by a bigger scoreline.
Pohang Steelers 1-2 Seoul
Seoul fought back from a horrendous early defensive mistake to beat Pohang away from home. An almighty mix-up between Seoul’s Kim Nam-Chum and goalkeeper Yu Sang-Hun allowed Stanislav Iljutcenko to tap home into an empty net but Seoul equalized before half time. Hwang Hyun-Soo headed home superbly at the back post after a host of chances for both sides. An end-to-end second half followed as Seoul grabbed the win from another superb header from a corner. Spanish defender Osmar glanced home into the top corner to secure a big win for the capital club.
Elsewhere Ulsan 1-1 Busan IPark – Ulsan’s Junior Negao equalized late on to stay unbeaten.
Gangwon FC 1-1 Seaongnam – Tight encounter between two teams who have had solid starts to the season.
Suwon Bluewings 1-0 Incheon United – First win of the season for Suwon thanks to a second half penalty kick.
Sangju Sangmu 1-0 Gwangju – An early goal was enough for Sangju, as Gwangju have lost their opening three games.
Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors got the job done in Round 2 matches in South Korea this weekend to share the table lead in this nascent season.
Busan IPark 1-2 Jeonbuk
The reigning-champs are the K-League’s joint-winningest club but got a stiff challenge from newly-promoted Busan on Saturday.
An early goal from Jeong-ho Hong was knocked back by Busan second-half sub Romulo’s 66th-minute penalty for the hosts.
The hero was Dutch-born South African international Lars Veldwijk on his league debut. The ex-Nottingham Forest and Sparta Rotterdam striker bodied up his defender to take a back-post cross and cut home in stoppage time, completing a 32-minute cameo with a match-winning goal.
Suwon Samsung 2-3 Ulsan Hyundai
Well-traveled Brazilian striker Junior Negrao has found a home in South Korea. He was at it again in a Sunday morning thriller, completing a huge comeback when he put a free kick winner under the wall.
The 33-year-old scored his third and fourth goals of the young season in a comeback win, giving him 53 goals in 87 career appearances with Ulsan.
Suwon had scored just before halftime and then right out of the break to take a surprise lead, having finished eighth last season. But Negrao got his first and In-sung Kim tied the score to set the stage for Negrao’s 89th-minute winner.
Elsewhere Daegu 1-1 Pohang Steelers
Sangju Sangmu 2-0 Gangwon FC
Seongnam FC 0-0 Incheon United
Seoul 1-0 Gwangju
Ulsan are the league leaders after they thumped Sangju 4-0 thanks to a first half double from Junior Negrao and a goal each from Lee Sang-Heon and Yeon Bit-Garam in the second half. Negrao’s first was a tidy finish, the second a penalty kick and he set up the third amid fireworks being let off at the intervals and after goals were scored, including a beauty from Yeon Bit-Garam for the fourth. Ulsan, who finished second to Jeonbuk last season only on goal difference, secured their first win of the season in style.
Elsewhere, Seongnam won 2-0 at Gwangju thanks to two goals in the opening 11 minutes from Yang Dong-Hyen. The striker headed home superbly for his first and after Seongnam goalkeeper Kim Young-Kwang made a key save, less than 45 seconds later Yang Dong-Hyen turned neatly in the box then fired home his second of the game. Gwangju had plenty of chances as they hit the crossbar in the first half but Seongnam goalkeeper Kim Young-Kwang had a fine game to seal the shutout win.
Talking of shutouts, Incheon United and Daegu played out a 0-0 draw in Saturday’s other game. Daegu had plenty of chances but Incheon goalkeeper Jeong San played his role to secure a point for the home side.
Reigning champions Jeonbuk FC beat Suwon Bluewings 1-0 thanks to a late header from 41-year-old striker Lee Dong-gook, who snuck in front of Canadian defender Doneil Henry at a corner to node home.
The veteran striker celebrated by saluting healthcare workers around the world, as Jeonbuk deserved the win after dominating 10-man Suwon. The Bluewings almost held on for a point after Terry Antonis was sent off in the 75th minute as Henry played well in central defense.
South Korea’s top-flight is the premier league in Asia as they’ve produced more winners of the AFC Champions League than any other country.
Jeonbuk, coached by Jose Mourinho’s former assistant Jose Morais, are the favorites to win a fourth-straight title and they handled the surreal situation of playing in an empty stadium.
Fan noises were played over the PA system in the Jeonju World Cup Stadium and overall things seemed to go very smoothly in the season opener. There was noticeably a lot of contact between players as some still shared high fives, while others preferred to bump elbows to embrace.
Saturday sees three games take place and there are two more on Sunday as the first weekend of the season kicks off.
You can watch the full match replay of Jeonbuk’s win against Suwon by clicking play on the video below.