Busan IPark was relegated from the K League 1 on Saturday afternoon after losing 2-1 to Seongnam FC in the final game of the season.
Busan only needed a draw to guarantee safety, but they threw away a half-time lead for the second game running to drop straight back into the second division after gaining promotion last year.
Despite losing to Incheon United last weekend, caretaker manager Lee Ki-hyung stuck with the same starting eleven on Saturday, with five at the back and playmaker Romulo shoehorned into a wing role.
Seongnam had the better of the first half, and Busan were grateful to goalkeeper Choi Pil-su for a string of saves to keep the Magpies at bay. Despite the hosts having the better chances, Busan took the lead on 32 minutes, Lee Dong-jun volleying a sumptuous effort into the net after the ball broke kindly to him inside the box.
With bottom club Incheon United leading 1-0 against Seoul, Busan needed to ensure that Seongnam didn’t turn the game around in the second half. Lee Ki-hyung decided not to push for a second goal and instead instructed his team to sit tight and try to hold onto their slender lead.
As was the case in Busan’s previous game, however, the opposition eventually found a way through. Hong Si-hoo scored the equalizer on 66 minutes after a goalmouth scramble, and Ma Sang-hoon gave Seongnam the lead on 79 minutes after the Busan defense failed to deal with another lofted ball into the box.
Busan rallied in the final ten minutes, but their tactic of launching long balls towards the towering presence of Park Ho-young gave Seongnam little trouble. The Magpies held on to secure their own top-flight status, while Incheon’s win at Seoul meant that Busan finished the season bottom of the league.
Next season Busan IPark will play in the K League 2, and they may face a battle to hold onto some of the big-name players such as Lee Dong-jun, Kim Moon-hwan, and Lee Jeong-hyup.
Sangju Sangmu, the military team, are the other top tier team to be relegated after the club’s decision to relocate to Gimcheon at the end of the year.