With timely goal, journeyman midfielder grabs 1st K League title in 1st season with Ulsan

SEOUL, Ulsan Hyundai FC entered Sunday's K League 1 match against Daegu FC having gone goalless in their past three contests.

The drought stretched into the second half of Sunday's tilt at Munsu Football Stadium in the southeastern city of Ulsan, before midfielder Kim Min-hyeok ended it on 68 minutes with a header goal that gave Ulsan a 1-0 lead.

Ulsan went on to win by 2-0, clinching their second straight K League 1 championship with three matches to spare. Pohang Steelers sit 10 points back of Ulsan with 60 and can't catch the first-place club the rest of this season.

Kim said afterward it still hadn't hit him that Ulsan just won their second straight title.

"I think I will need to savor this a little more," Kim said with a smile. "It feels so good to lock down the title early. I was able to score because of all the help from my teammates."

Kim, 31, made his K League debut with FC Seoul in 2015. He went on to play for four more clubs from 2016 to 2022, before joining Ulsan in December last year.

At his previous stops, Kim hadn't come close to contending for a title. Spending the vast majority of the season in first place was a new experience for Kim.

"I've had so much help from everyone during my first season here. I want to thank the coach (Hong Myung-bo) for giving me so much playing time," said Kim, who has so far played in 29 of Ulsan's 35 matches this year. "I've tried so hard to hold up my end of the bargain and contribute to the team the best I can."

On the scoring play, Ataru Esaka sent a cross from the left wing that sailed over goalkeeper Oh Seung-hoon, who tried but failed to punch the ball away before any Ulsan player could get to it.

Kim sprinted toward the net and boxed out defender Kim Kang-san before heading the ball past Oh for the match's first goal. Kim scored about four minutes after coming in off the bench.

"I wanted to go in and play aggressively from the get-go," Kim said. "Ataru made a great cross, and I was ready to pounce on it. All I did was just put my head to the ball."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

Recent Posts