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Juggernauts win 2nd straight match, embattled star shines in K League

Kim Min-jun of Ulsan Hyundai FC (R) celebrates his goal against Gwangju FC during a K League 1 match at Gwangju Football Stadium in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, last Friday. (Yonhap)
Kim Min-jun of Ulsan Hyundai FC (R) celebrates his goal against Gwangju FC during a K League 1 match at Gwangju Football Stadium in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, last Friday. (Yonhap)
In a bid to end a long K League 1 title drought, Ulsan Hyundai FC aren't messing around.

Ulsan won their second straight match out of the gate in the 2021 season Saturday, when they beat Gwangju FC 1-0 behind rookie Kim Min-jun's first career goal in his first-ever start.

With former South Korean national team boss Hong Myung-bo in charge, Ulsan have won their first two matches by a combined 6-0.

Ulsan finished runners-up to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in each of the past two seasons. No K League club has had more second-place finishes than Ulsan's nine. Their last championship came in 2005.

Two other clubs won their second straight matches over the weekend. Pohang Steelers knocked off Gangwon FC 3-1 on Saturday. Suwon Samsung Bluewings beat 10-man Seongnam FC 1-0 on Sunday, the first time they've claimed the opening two matches of a season since 2013.

Only Ulsan, Pohang and Suwon have two wins after two matches so far. Pohang sit one behind Ulsan in the goals scored category with five. Ulsan and Suwon are the only two clubs not to have conceded any goals in 2021.

Also on Sunday, FC Seoul picked up their first win by blanking Suwon FC 3-0. Na Sang-ho grabbed a brace, the first of the two coming in the 51st minute on a gorgeous pass by captain Ki Sung-yueng.

The midfielder dialed in from long distance to connect with Na, sending a line drive pass from behind the center circle that Na deftly trapped with his chest after getting behind the defense. The forward let the ball bounce once before firing it home past goalkeeper Yoo Hyun for an early candidate for the Goal of the Year.

Ki is playing under a cloud of physical and sexual allegations, raised by a pair of his elementary school teammates in late February. Ki has repeatedly denied those charges and has vowed to take all necessary legal steps to clear his name.

Ki looked out of sorts while playing just 36 minutes in the season opener on Feb. 27 but played 72 solid minutes in Sunday's victory.

Elsewhere in the league, Incheon United beat Daegu FC 2-1 on Saturday for their first win of the season. In 2020, Incheon didn't pick up their first win until match No. 16, with five draws and 10 losses prior to that breakthrough. They somehow survived the battle to avoid relegation to the K League 2, and things are looking up for the perennial underdogs early this season.

Elias Aguilar netted Incheon's winner in the 37th minute and now has scored in two straight matches.

Jeonbuk, going for a record fifth consecutive title, were held to a 1-1 draw by Jeju United on Saturday. Having been promoted from the K League 2, Jeju have opened the new season in the top competition with two straight draws.

Gangwon and Gwangju are the only two teams saddled with two losses. Gangwon have surrendered eight goals in two matches while scoring just once. (Yonhap)
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