Professional soccer’s K League 1 Gwangju FC has become the first club in history to qualify for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) in its first season of promotion.Gwangju (59 points) drew 0-0 with Pohang Steelers (64 points) in their final 38th round home match of the Hana OneQ K League 1 2023 at the Gwangju Football Stadium on March 3.At the same time, fifth-place Incheon United (56 points) lost 1-2 to sixth-place Daegu FC (53 points) and fourth-place Jeonbuk Hyundai (57 points) lost 0-1 to “champions” Ulsan Hyundai, clinching third place for Gwangju.With the win, Gwangju clinched a spot in the AFC Champions League Elite (ACLE) Playoffs (PO). If they lose in the PO, they will receive a ticket to the Champions League 2 (ACL2).Beginning with the 2024-2025 season, AFC will split the ACL into the top-tier ACLE and the second-tier ACL2. This is in line with UEFA’s division of club competitions into the top-tier Champions League (UCL) and Europa League (UEL).The AFC has allocated 2+1 tickets to the ACLE and 1 ticket to ACL2 in Korea, with the KFA first handing out tickets to the 2024-2025 season to this season’s league champion (Ulsan Hyundai) and the Korea Football Association (FA) Cup winner.Second-place Pohang will compete in the ACLE as the FA Cup winner. Third-place Gwangju earned a spot in the ACLE PO and fourth-place Jeonbuk earned a spot in the ACL2.Gwangju also achieved the highest ranking and number of wins in the club’s history.Prior to this season, Gwangju’s best finish in the first division was sixth place (six wins) in the 2020 season, which ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the most wins in a season was 11 in 2016 (eighth place).Gwangju received a boost when Pohang’s Lee Ho-jae was sent off just eight minutes into the match. Lee stretched his foot too high during a contest, causing Lee Soon-min to fall, and the referee immediately showed a red card.However, the team had to swallow their disappointment as their subsequent scoring chances were blocked by Pohang goalkeeper Hwang In-Jae.
Hwang In-jae, who saved Heo Yul’s sharp headers in the 39th and 41st minutes of the first half, also saved Ha Seung-woon’s shot from the corner of the net 15 minutes into the second half.Jung Ho-yeon tried his luck with a right-footed curling shot from outside the penalty box in the 33rd minute, but it only hit the post, sending Gwangju players to the ground.Pohang’s Baek Sung-dong, who has been sidelined with injury, leads the league in assists this season with eight.Daegu earned a farewell victory at home, beating Incheon 2-1 in Lee Geun-ho’s “farewell game” for the final time this season.Brazilian striker Edgar exploded for his eighth and ninth goals of the season, making him the top contributor to Daegu’s victory.In the 40th minute of the first half, Edgar headed in a cross from Hong Chul on the flank and ran straight to Lee Geun-ho to share his joy.The veteran striker would be the last to leave the field.With momentum on his side, Edgar rattled the Incheon net in the 11th minute of the second half, finishing off a cross from Hong Chul.Hernandez scored 18 minutes later to give Incheon a final victory in front of 28,638 home fans as the reigning champions defeated Jeonbuk 1-0 at Ulsan Munsu Stadium.Against Jeonbuk, who were desperate for a win, Ulsan attacked strongly from the start of the first half, led by right fullback Kim Tae-hwan’s lively overlapping runs.Ulsan missed a golden opportunity in the 16th minute when Kim Tae-hwan’s right-footed volley from the left corner was saved by the goalkeeper.
Ulsan didn’t stop attacking and scored the first goal in the 31st minute, with left fullback Seol Young-woo being the hero.Uhm Won-sang made a quick run to the right side of the penalty area and was blocked by a defender, and Kim Sung-joon picked up the rebound and passed it to Seol Young-woo. Seol Young-woo scored with a right-footed shot from the front of the penalty area.In the 41st minute of the first half, there was also a dizzying injury situation.On a free kick on the right side of Jeonbuk’s midfield, the ball was played into the Ulsan penalty area, and Jeonbuk’s Hong Jeong-ho, who went for a header, and Ulsan goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo, who tried to punch it, collided hard.Hong fell to the ground, and the game was delayed for about 15 minutes as an ambulance was called to take him to the hospital. He showed symptoms of a concussion, but thankfully regained consciousness.With the score at 1-0, Ulsan’s players focused on “pushing” Lee In-jong-kyu, who was ahead of Thiago (17 goals in Daejeon) in the scoring race and had already secured the top goal scorer of the year (17 goals) in terms of playing time.In the fourth minute of the second half, Injongyu rushed to the goal to receive a right-side cross from Uhm Won-sang but couldn’t get his toe to it, and two minutes later, he received a back pass and stumbled in front of the penalty area, sending his right-footed shot straight at the keeper.Inhabigyu was eventually replaced by Martin Adam in the 21st minute of the second half with no offense.Ulsan ended the match with no further goals as Uhm Won-sang’s right-footed 무료슬롯게임 shot from the front of the penalty area hit the crossbar on a counterattack in the 25th minute.