It could have been a much bigger crisis. Ulsan HD was a different story.

Ulsan has put the heartbreak of failing to reach the Asian Champions League (ACL) final behind it and has won three straight matches in K League 1. In the ninth round of the Hana Bank K League 1 2024, Ulsan came from behind to win 3-1 against Jeju United at Munsu Football Stadium on Monday, thanks to goals from Kelvin, Lee Dong-kyung, and Uhm Won-sang.

Lee Dong-kyung shined again in his final game before enlisting in the military. He has made a spectacular comeback this season. He became the first player in the K League 1 to reach double-digit offensive points (6 goals-4 assists). In the ACL, he scored the winning goal in the first leg of the quarterfinals (1-0 win) against 스포츠토토존 Yokohama Marinos (Japan) to give Ulsan a ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup.

Lee Dong-kyung assisted on Uhm Won-sang’s wedge goal following the comeback. He will be enlisted in the commercial service on Sept. 29. He finished with seven goals and five assists in eight K League 1 games for Ulsan. He leads the league in goals and assists.

Ulsan head coach Hong Myung-bo was delighted: “Before today’s game, we expected it to be a difficult match. We lost our concentration at the beginning of the game and made a lot of mistakes. I think there was a problem with the players’ overall physical condition, but I’m glad we were able to come back after conceding the first goal. It was good to see the players try their best in a difficult situation.”

Lee Dong-kyung was selected for Europe in January 2022 but returned to Korea in July last year. Hong said: “It’s hard to find a player in our team who is in as good a form as Lee Dong-kyung. I’m sorry he’s leaving, thank you, and I hope he can keep this form even if he goes to the commercial team.” “I hope he can go to a higher level,” Hong smiled, “I’m proud to have been his coach for just under three years, and I’m proud to have been his coach.

He added, “After Lee Dong-kyung went to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, it was similar to then and now. After that, he went to Europe and went through a difficult time, so his maturity is much better. I kept scoring every game and putting points on the board. The time in Europe was difficult and hard, but it was not in vain,” he emphasized.

The first win against Jeju was even more special. “It means a lot,” Hong said. “The league has been going well, but I’ve been struggling with my ACL. Today’s win was a big game for the whole team to get into the league system.”

On Yoon Il-rok’s transition to fullback, Hong said, “He did better than I expected today. He hasn’t played in a game, but he’s been training in that position. For his first game, he did well in both offense and defense. I think he can play a good role in the team’s management going forward.”

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