Gustavo of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (left) attempts a header against FC seoul during the clubs' K League 1 match at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul, on Saturday. (Yonhap)
Four-time reigning champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors launched their South Korean football title defense with a victory on Saturday.
Jeonbuk edged out FC Seoul 2-0 to kick open the K League 1 season at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul. FC Seoul defender Kim Won-gun headed in an own goal in the 75th minute, and Jeonbuk winger Mo Barrow rounded out the scoring with an injury-time goal.
Jeonbuk's new bench boss Kim Sang-sik won his head coaching debut. The former top assistant to Jose Morais was promoted to the head job last December after the Portuguese's departure.
FC Seoul had a few chances early on, with winger Na Sang-ho denied by goalkeeper Song Bum-keun from close range in the second minute.
It wasn't until the late stretch of the first half that Jeonbuk showed some life. They had their best chance of the opening half in the 45th minute, when Lee Yong set up Gustavo for a header that sailed just right of the net.
Jeonbuk got the fortuitous icebreaker 30 minutes into the second half, when Kim Won-gun's clearing attempt of a Kim Bo-kyung free kick drifted into his own net.
Barrow made sure Jeonbuk would have a goal of their own, as he converted a low cross from Kim Bo-kyung with the clock ticking down.
The K League 1 set out for a full, 38-match season for 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic, a year after COVID-19 forced it to slash its schedule to 27 matches.
The dozen teams in the top division also played most of last season without fans. This season, on the other hand, will have limited crowds, at least in the early going: at 10 percent capacity for teams in greater Seoul and 30 percent the rest of the country under the current set of social distancing rules.
For FC Seoul, star midfielder Ki Sung-yueng got the start despite facing allegations of sexual and physical assault from elementary school days. Two of Ki's former teammates first raised those charges on Wednesday and Ki has repeatedly denied them.
Ki made little impact on the match before being substituted in the 36th minute.
The league will continue on with another match later Saturday, and two more each on Sunday and Monday. (Yonhap)