It’s ‘clock zero’ again. There are only two rounds left in the K League 1 before the end of the season. The ‘scorer’s race’ is back to square one.
Ulsan Hyundai’s Ju Po In-gyu has finally reactivated his goal fireworks. He scored the winning goal in the ‘East Coast Derby’ against the Pohang Steelers at the Ulsan World Cup Stadium on September 12, leading his team to a 3-2 victory. It was his first goal in 49 days since September 24 against Suwon FC (3-2 win). While Lee In-jong-kyu faltered, Daejeon Hana Citizen’s Thiago took over as the top scorer entering the final round. He scored goals in two consecutive games last month against Suwon FC (1-1 draw) on May 22 and Suwon Samsung (2-2 draw) on May 29. Thiago’s three-match goal streak ended at home against Gangwon FC on Nov. 11 (0-1 loss). Inhabigyu stepped up to the plate and scored his 16th goal of the season.
‘Playing water’ is different First-place Ulsan, which clinched its first back-to-back K League 1 titles, is in Final A and eighth-place Daejeon is in Final B. The two teams are in the same bracket. Lee In-gyu was the top scorer for Jeju United two years ago with 22 goals. It was the first time in five years that a local striker had won the title since Chung Jo Gook. Last year, he fell just short. He scored 17 goals, tied with Jeonbuk Hyundai’s Cho Kyu-sung (Meatwillan), but lost out in terms of goals per game.
Thiago will try to become the first foreigner to win the top scorer title in three years since Junio in 2020 (25 goals for Ulsan). Daejeon has already clinched promotion, so there’s no relegation pressure. Lee In-gyu returns to Ulsan, where he spent a season in 2019. He had one goal. To win the K League 1 title. He’s already accomplished that. Ulsan clinched the title early, beating Daegu FC 2-0 on March 29.
So the ‘goal scorer’s clock’ started ticking again. After the Pohang game, Lee In-gyu said, “I didn’t want to be the top scorer until we won the title. I had a firm goal of winning the championship. Once we secured the title, the greed in me came out. I realized that I’m human, too. The players are trying to help me. I’m going to prepare gratefully for every game,” he laughed.
Lee In-gyu is a midfielder. He switched to a striker in the pros. “Changing to a striker was a challenge. It would be nice to score a goal every game, but I also have to endure the tough times, and I don’t think I’m good enough yet to find a way to do that. But I’m finding confidence through training with my teammates. My teammates are helping me a lot.”
Ulsan head coach Hong Myung-bo also encouraged Lee Min-gyu. “We have to see the rest of the games. For now, I think his teammates need to give him a lot of support to be the top scorer. Even though I’m not playing, I think our players can help him,” he said, adding, “He’s been a top scorer before, and I think it means more to him to win the title for the first time.” 캡틴토토
The team has two more games against Incheon United on Dec. 24 and Jeonbuk on Dec. 3. Thiago will face Jeju United on Dec. 25 and FC Seoul on Dec. 2. The race to be the last man standing is also a fun one.