Choi’s Jeonbuk wrap up third K-League title

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Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors v Guangzhou Evergrande - AFC Champions League Group G

secured their third-ever title with a 3-0 win over Jeju United on Saturday. Goals from Leonardo, Lee Seung-gi and Lee Sang-hyup helped the team become 2014 Classic champions with three games left to play.

Since head coach Choi Kang-hee joined the Jeonju-based side in 2005, he instilled an attacking dakgong (“shut up and just attack”) philosophy within the team. Choi has indicated that both he and his players always enjoy playing the ball in attack, which made his dakgong philosophy perfectly suitable. With this, Jeonbuk became one of the strongest teams in K-League.

During a temporary departure from the club over the 2012 and 2013 seasons in which Choi managed the national team, the team collapsed. Key players Luiz and Eninho – who scored more than they conceded – left the club. Kim Sang-sik retired, leaving the team without a defensive midfielder who can help defence when the full backs overlap to help offence. Many experts thought it would take at least a few years for him to rebuild the team.

As expected, Jeonbuk continued to lose points from strong positions and conceded a late equalizer to Pohang Steelers in Round 28, focusing on attack despite their 2-1 lead.

Following their 2-2 tie with Pohang, Choi decided to give up on the dakgong philosophy that earned them the 2009 and 2011 K-League titles. Though they continued poor form, Jeonbuk remained patient until they got a chance, rather than their reverting to their relentless attacking. Choi even chose to use a line of three defenders and focused on counter attacks when facing Seoul earlier this month, which resulted in a 1-0 victory for Jeonbuk’s with a last-minute goal.

Speaking to press following their title-deciding win, Choi explained how their team won the trophy: “Balance is the key. We had some difficulties in defending, so I concentrated on fixing these problems.

“Fortunately, the players followed my lead very well. The team started to have balance throughout the season and players gained confidence. That is how the team became better.”

Choi’s decisions ultimately paid dividends. Jeonbuk have won their third league title in the club’s history and did so convincingly, with the most goals scored and the least conceded of any team in the competition.