Busan IPark succumbed to a 2-0 defeat away to reigning champions Jeonbuk Hyundai on Sunday afternoon as their floundering end to the season continued.
Busan were always the underdogs against second-placed Jeonbuk in the final game before the top division splits into two mini-leagues. An early header from Cho Gue-sung and a Gustavo penalty ensured that Jeonbuk kept up the pressure on top club Ulsan Hyundai, while Busan remains embroiled in a relegation battle.
It didn’t take long for Jeonbuk to assert their dominance. Busan conceded a corner on four minutes after midfielder Kim Seung-joon carelessly gifted Jeonbuk possession, and striker Cho Gue-sung rose above Jung Sung-min to power the home team into the lead.
Without regular threats Lee Dong-jun and Lee Jeong-hyup, Busan relied on the talents of playmaker Romulo to create chances, but the front line failed to put the final touch to the few promising moves started by the Brazilian.
Busan could have fallen further behind in the 16th minute when keeper Choi Pil-su recovered the ball outside his area, only to gift it straight to Takahiro Kunimoto. The Japanese midfielder’s lofted shot was cleared off the line by Busan defender Dostonbek Tursunov, however.
Jeonbuk eventually doubled their lead on 37 minutes when Dostonbek tripped Jeonbuk striker Gustavo inside the Busan penalty area. The Brazilian forward picked himself up to coolly slot the penalty beyond Choi Pil-su, and Busan never truly looked like recovering.
Busan boss Cho Deok-jae made two changes at half time and Busan were allowed more possession as Jeonbuk sat back to consolidate their lead, but the visitors still failed to test keeper Song Beum-keun. Lee Sang-jun impressed with a number of speedy runs down the wings for Busan, but the youngster was unable to provide the final killer cross for a teammate. Substitute Gustavo Vintecinco, meanwhile, twice headed wide when well placed inside the Jeonbuk area.
Jeonbuk saw the game out comfortably to ensure victory, and Busan will now take part in the ‘Final B’ group, which features the bottom six clubs. Busan will play each of their closest rivals once more before the season’s end, with only the bottom team facing automatic relegation.
Busan remains three points ahead of Incheon United, who also lost on Sunday afternoon. The fixtures for the Final B group will be released shortly.