Former Arsenal striker Park Chu-young seals K-League title for FC Seoul
Former Arsenal striker Park Chu-young won the South Korean title for FC Seoul on Sunday afternoon in a dramatic last day of the season.
A fierce second-half finish from Park, who played just seven English Premier League minutes for the Arsene Wenger's team from 2011 to 2014, gave Seoul a 1-0 win over leaders Jeonbuk Motors to go top of the league for the first time in the 2016 K-League Classic season.
Going into the game, the two teams were level on points but Jeonbuk, playing at home at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium, had scored more goals and needed just a point to take a third successive championship.
Just before the hour of an entertaining and open game in front of almost 34,000 fans, Yun Il-rok split the Jeonbuk defence with a perfect through pass for Park to latch on to and fire a first-time shot past Kwon Sun-tae in goal.
It was doubly satisfying for Seoul as they had not only lost three times in the league to Jeonbuk but were also eliminated by their K-League rivals in the semifinal of the Asian Champions League in September.
"We didn't want to keep losing to Jeonbuk," Park, who rejoined FC Seoul in 2015 after leaving the club for AS Monaco in 2008, said after the game. "It is a good feeling to score the goal that wins such a big game but the important point is that we won the game and are champions. It is good to end the season on a high like this."
It was Seoul's third title in the K-League following success in 2010 and 2012 and a memorable one for Hwang Sun-hong who succeeded Choi Yong-soo as coach in June. Hwang led Pohang Steelers to a last-day title triumph in 2013.
"This is a similar feeling," said Hwang. "The reason we won today is that we kept our heads and composure well. It will be great if we can use this energy to go and win the title in a perfect fashion next year."
Jeonbuk had been 14 points clear at the top with six games of the season remaining. In September however, the club was hit with a nine-point deduction after a scout was found guilty of bribing referees in 2013 -- Jeonbuk denies any knowledge of the scout's actions.
"The game did not go as we would have liked," said Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee. "The players have given their all this season to the very end but we have to accept our destiny."
Jeonbuk have to pick themselves up for the first leg of the final of the Asian Champions League against Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates on Nov. 19.
"We have to look at the defeat objectively," said Choi. "We have the final coming up in two weeks and now it is time to focus on that.
Also in the final round, Jeju United qualified for the 2017 Champions League by finishing third and Suwon FC was relegated to the second tier after taking bottom place.
Seven-time champions Seongnam FC finished one spot above and will face a relegation play-off against Gangwon FC from the second tier.
Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.