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Gimcheon Sangmu FC earn promotion to top division in S. Korean footballBy Yonhap
Published : Nov. 26, 2023 - 19:36
In a dramatic turn of events on the final day of the regular season, Gimcheon Sangmu FC earned a direct promotion to the top division in South Korean football on Sunday.
Gimcheon defeated Seoul E-Land FC 1-0 to finish atop the K League 2 tables with 71 points and secure a spot in the top-flight K League 1 for 2024. Kim Hyeon-ug's 37th-minute goal stood as the winner.
Gimcheon, a military club made up of players fulfilling their mandatory service duties, were relegated after the 2022 season but will be back with the big boys after just one season in the K League 2.
Gimcheon entered Sunday's action in second place with 68 points, one behind Busan IPark. Busan could have grabbed the top spot by beating Chungbuk Cheongju FC on Sunday, regardless of Gimcheon's results.
However, Busan settled for a 1-1 draw, after allowing the equalizer during second-half added time, about two minutes before the final whistle.
Gimcheon had previously been relegated for the 2013, 2015 and 2021 seasons, and each time, they moved right back up to the K League 1 the following years.
Busan will still have a chance to join the K League 1 through playoffs later.
In the K League's promotion-relegation system, teams ranked second to fifth in the K League 2 all have a chance to be promoted to the K League 1 next year.
As the No. 2 team, Busan will face the 11th-ranked club from the K League 1 in a two-legged, promotion-relegation playoff -- scheduled for Dec. 6 and 9. The K League 1's regular season ends next Sunday.
The fourth- and fifth-ranked teams from the K League 2, Gyeongnam FC and Bucheon FC 1995, will clash in the first playoff series Wednesday. The winner of that one-and-done playoff will go on to face the third-ranked Gimpo FC in the second playoff match, which will be played Saturday.
The winner of that playoff showdown will move on to the other promotion-relegation playoff against the No. 10 seed from the K League 1, also scheduled for Dec. 6 and 9.
Busan IPark last played in the K League 1 in 2020. Gyeongnam's last run in the top league came in 2019. Gimpo and Bucheon have never played in the first division.
Of the dozen teams in the K League 1, the last-place club will be directly relegated to the K League 2. The two teams directly above them must survive the playoffs to stay in the top competition in 2024.
All six K League 2 matches on Sunday kicked off at 2 p.m., but Gimcheon's match at home in Gimcheon, some 200 kilometers southeast of Seoul, ended a few minutes before Busan's game, taking place in Busan, some 140 kilometers south of Gimcheon.
Kim Hyeon-ug scored for Gimcheon off a Lee You-hyeon pass on 37 minutes and held on for the narrow win. Gimcheon then waited with bated breath as Busan were trying to protect their 1-0 lead over Chungbuk.
That match had six minutes of added time. And about four minutes into the extra session, Kim Myung-sun secured the loose ball on the right side following a corner, and sent it toward the goalmouth. Jorge Luiz, with his back to the net, somehow got enough of the ball on a half bicycle kick. The ball floated into the bottom right corner, dashing Busan's hopes.
A wild celebration ensued in Gimcheon for the home team's players and coaches, while Busan players walked off their field dejectedly following the one that got away. (Yonhap)
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