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East Asia Domestic Wrap: Ulsan edge closer to K League title

Kuala Lumpur: Ulsan Hyundai need just a point from their final game of the season to be crowned K League champions after playing out a 1-1 draw with title rivals Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Saturday. 

Elsewhere, Guangzhou Evergrande defeated Shanghai SIPG to take a giant step towards the Chinese Super League title and Yokohama F. Marinos moved top of the J.League after a dramatic weekend in Japan.

There was also a full set of fixtures in Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei and Guam, so join as we review all the action in what was a busy few days in East Asia.

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Korea Republic: Ulsan within touching distance

Dave Bulthuis was the hero for Ulsan Hyundai as the Dutchman’s goal secured a 1-1 draw for Ulsan Hyundai against title rivals Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to maintain their three-point lead over the Jeonju side with just one game to play.

Ulsan will now win the K League for the first time since 2005 if they can claim a point from their final game of the season against Pohang Steelers or Jeonbuk fail to pick up all three points against Gangwon on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Pohang won 3-0 at FC Seoul, while Daegu FC defeated Gangwon 4-2 to leave just two points separating third-placed Seoul from Pohang in fifth. The side that finishes third will enter the 2020 AFC Champions League qualifying rounds.

At the other end of the table, Jeju United’s relegation was confirmed after a 4-2 lost to Suwon Samsung Bluewings, while Incheon United beat Sangju Sangmu 2-0 and Gyeongnam FC won 2-1 at Seongnam FC.

Both results are significant with second-from-bottom Gyeongnam hosting Incheon, one place above them, next weekend and the losers facing a relegation play-off.

China PR: Guangzhou in the driving seat

Shanghai SIPG’s bid to defend their Chinese Super League title appears to be all but over after Anderson Talisca scored twice to deal the holders a 2-0 defeat at Guangzhou Evergrande as the top two going into the latest round of fixtures went head-to-head on Saturday.

The result saw Guangzhou move four points clear of Shanghai SIPG with two games to play as the defending champions also dropped to third in the standings after Beijing FC claimed a 2-1 win over Shanghai Shenhua.

Beijing FC are still firmly in the hunt as the capital city side sit just two points adrift of Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou ahead of another full set of fixtures on Wednesday.

At the bottom end of the table, Beijing Renhe’s relegation was confirmed following a 3-2 defeat to Jiangsu FC, while Shenzhen FC’s 3-0 loss to Tianjin Teda means they are two points from safety with two games to play.

Japan: Yokohama jump to top

Yokohama F. Marinos were the big winners in Japan at the weekend after Ange Postecoglou’s team defeated relegation-threatened Matsumoto Yamaga 1-0 on Saturday.

That result, coupled with FC Tokyo’s surprise 1-1 draw against 16th-placed Shonan Bellmare – in which the capital city team needed a 94th-minute equaliser – meant Yokohama moved a point clear of Tokyo at the summit.

Kashima Antlers’ hopes of clinching a first title since 2016 have faded further after a scoreless draw against Sanfrecce Hiroshima left the Ibaraki side four points from the top with two matches remaining.

Shonan currently occupy the relegation play-off place, two points in front of Matsumoto in the drop zone and four behind the trio of Shimizu S-Pulse, Sagan Tosu and Urawa Red Diamonds ahead of the final two rounds of fixtures.

Bottom side Jubilo Iwata, meanwhile, scored a 96th-minute penalty to win 2-1 at Consodole Sapporo and keep their slim hopes of catching Shonan alive.

Chinese Taipei: League goes down to the wire

The destination of the league title in Chinese Taipei will go down to the final game of the season next weekend after table-toppers Tatung defeated Ming Chuan University 7-1 and second-placed Taipower won 1-0 against Tainan City.

With the sides level pegging on 49 points but Tatung boasting a vastly superior goal difference, Tatung will clinch the title if they avoid defeat away at Taipower in the last match of the campaign on Sunday.

Tatung are chasing a third successive title while Taipower are aiming for their seventh and first since 2016.

Hong Kong: Guangzhou R&F lead the way

Two goals in the final three minutes saw Guangzhou R&F come from behind to defeat Southern District 4-3 and move top of the Hong Kong Premier League on Saturday.

Eastern SC were top going into the weekend but suffered a 3-1 defeat to Kitchee SC, who moved up to fourth on the back of the win.

Warriors are third after beating Happy Valley 3-1, while the defending champions Wofoo Tai Po beat BC Rangers 3-2 and are now fifth.

Guam: Bog Stykers maintain perfect start

Finally, Bog Strykers made it five wins from five in Guam after claiming a 4-1 victory against Guam U-19s on Saturday to stay three points clear of Napa Rovers, who beat UOG Tritons 5-2.

Islanders moved up to third after a thrilling 5-4 win over LOA Heat, while fifth-placed Sidekicks defeated fourth-placed Quality Distributors 3-0.


Photo: Ulsan Hyundai

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