By Peter Hampshire
FC Seoul have stolen the Korean K-League football title from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in their own back yard.
Arsenal flop Park Chu-young grabbed the glory in an all-or-nothing season finale.
The 31-year-old Park, who also had a spell at Watford, scored the only goal of the game to the delight of the travelling fans.
The build-up was shrouded by Jeonbuk’s nine point deduction for allegedly bribing referees. This de-stabilised their season and saw some unrest at K-League matches around the country. The protests unsettled them, with the side winning only two of their last seven in a season where they were undisputedly the best footballing team.
— Howard Cheng (@Howard52421972) June 15, 2016
All this should not detract from FC Seoul’s remarkable revival, who were still five points behind after the point deduction. Remarkably, they won six of their last seven in the closing weeks.
Following their title-winning victory at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium, FC Seoul fan Nicole Chung said: “We were clearly the ones more hungry for the win as we needed the three points, instead of Jeonbuk who were aiming for a draw. Now time to win the FA Cup.”
Seoul go on to attempt the double against arch-rivals Suwon Bluewings later this month.
K-League writer Paul Neat queried the authenticity of the title win, which is understandable given the fact Seoul were comfortably behind Jeonbuk for the majority of the season.
— Paul Neat (@NeatPaul) November 6, 2016
However, for Seoul fans it was a moot point. Charismatic Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic celebrated alongside centre-back Osmar Barba, whose stock will surely rise in his native Spain.
Champions 2016 🏆 Champions like always…🔴⚫️💪 pic.twitter.com/cuL5Q1XOLw
— Dejan Damjanovic (@Boske9) November 6, 2016
A common gripe among K-League lovers is the popular “gwen-cha-na” chant, meaning “it’s ok” after a defeat. Jeonbuk fan Matt Binns, felt it may just this once be deemed appropriate after a turbulent season.
— Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns) November 6, 2016
Not all pointed the finger at off-the-field issues for Jeonbuk’s spectacular late slump. Something they will have to resolve if they are to win the Asian Champions League final later this month.
Jeonbuk didn't lose the title today. They lost it multiple times when they conceded the lead late & settled for a draw. #KLeague
— Ryan Walters (@MrRyanWalters) November 6, 2016
Both teams now going into cup finals that could define their season. Seoul look to take advantage of an unusually poor season down the road at Suwon. Jeonbuk, who should feel relieved at their relatively light punishment, must raise their game against one of Asia’s strongest sides, Al Ain of UAE.