In Front of First Fans, Busan IPark Beaten 2-1 by Ulsan

Busan IPark suffered their third defeat in eight days with a 2-1 home loss to Ulsan Hyundai on Sunday evening. The game was played out in front of 586 socially distanced fans in Busan’s Gudeok Stadium; the first time that supporters have been allowed back into the stadium.

Busan, who were without star striker Lee Jeong-hyeop, settled well in the game’s early stages as league leaders Ulsan sat back to let the home team probe. The carefully organized seating plan in the stadium – with supporters sitting in specially marked out seats – made for an eerily quiet atmosphere that was punctured only by occasional rounds of applause and broadcasted cheering sounds.

The Royals’ playmaker Romulo was the standout player of the first-half, controlling the midfield and breaking forward with driving runs and incisive passes. The Brazilian also created Busan’s best opportunity of the game with a raking ball over the Ulsan defence midway through the half. The lively Lee Dong-joon controlled the pass excellently on his chest but then blasted over wildly with only the goalkeeper to beat. It was a rare clear-cut chance in a tight opening period, as Busan lacked cohesion in the final third.

Ulsan, who had been largely kept at bay during the first half, had the final word of the opening 45 minutes. Former international midfielder Yoon Bit-garam swept home with a low shot from just outside the area against the run of play, giving Ulsan a one-goal lead at the break.

The league leaders were more dominant in the second half, although the Busan defense, marshaled by Kang Min-soo, kept the hosts in the game. Despite creating very little of note in the second half, Busan found a way to level the scores on 79 minutes. Romulo was the architect again, skipping through the Ulsan midfield before teeing up substitute Kim Hyun, who finished excellently with a low drive into the corner.

Four minutes later, however, Ulsan retook the lead. K League 1 top scorer Junior Negrao was the hero for Ulsan, pouncing inside the six yard box after Busan failed to clear a corner.

Having been knocked out of the FA Cup by Jeonbuk Hyundai in a 5-1 midweek loss, Busan now have their sights firmly set on the league this season, with the top six still a realistic aim. Despite their recent losses they still currently sit in seventh, one point behind Gangwon FC.

Busan IPark are in action again next Sunday evening at 7 p.m. against Sangju Sangmu FC.

Tomas Marcantonio
Tomas writes novels, travel, flash fiction, and sports. He’s been getting gleefully lost in Busan’s neon-lit backstreets since 2011. You can follow Tomas on Twitter @TJMarcantonio and @IparkBusan

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