Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will be back in the AFC Champions League following a one-year absence after securing the K-League Classic title on Sunday with a 3-0 win over Jeju United.
Following a goalless first half at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium, it took just two minutes after the restart for Lee Jae-sung to break the deadlock for the hosts before Lee Seung-ki doubled their lead in the 67th minute.
With 11 minutes remaining, there was a milestone moment for legendary forward Lee Dong-gook as he netted his 200th K-League goal to secure maximum points for his side.
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The victory also meant a fifth title crown for Jeonbuk as they claimed an unassailable seven-point lead with two games remaining over Jeju, who had previously been the only team still in with a chance of catching them.
It also marks a positive end to what has been a troubled year for the South Korean giants, after they lost last season’s crown due to a nine-point deduction for a bribery scandal, which also saw their place in this season’s Champions League revoked.
However, having lost the opportunity to defend the continental title they won in 2016, Jeonbuk will now be looking forward to reclaiming their place amongst Asia’s elite next season.
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“It’s been a difficult season to be sure, but the players never gave up till the end,” explained Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee, according to Associated Press.
“Winning a championship is never easy, but we were able to get it done because our players did so much for this team.”
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And, while he played a key role to helping the team get this far and could potentially still feature for Korea Republic at next summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, 38-year-old Lee Dong-gook did not rule out retiring once the campaign came to a close.
“Next season is still far away, the former Werder Bremen and Middlesbrough forward said.
“It is possible that I will retire this year but I want to do my best in the remaining games and [then] I will talk about my future after the season ends.”
Photo credit: Korean Football Association