The East Coast Derby, a local derby representing the K League, is coming to soccer fans this weekend. The Ulsan Hyundai and Pohang Steelers are the first and second-ranked teams in the league this season.
Pohang and Ulsan will face off in the 21st round of the Hana OneQ K League 1 2023 at 6 p.m. on Aug. 8 at the Pohang Steel Yard. Heading into the 176th East Coast Derby, Pohang leads the all-time series with 64 wins, 53 draws and 58 losses.
In the last decade, Ulsan has had some bad memories in the East Coast Derby. They came close to winning the league in 2013 and 2019, only to be stopped by Pohang. Even last season, when they won the title for the first time in 17 years, they were unable to secure the title after drawing 1-1 in the final East Coast Derby. This season, they also met for the first time at home in the ninth round, where they fell behind by two goals before a dramatic late equalizer from Lee In-gyu earned them a 2-2 draw. As Pohang coach Kim Ki-dong said, “We don’t pay attention to specific matches, but the East Coast Derby is an exception.” The East Coast Derby has always been fierce and difficult for both teams.
A heated battle is expected this time as well. Both second-place Pohang (37-10W, 7D, 3L) and leader Ulsan (50-16W, 2L, 2D) 안전놀이터 are unbeaten in their last four matches (3W, 1D, 4L). However, there is a big difference in depth. Pohang is missing Go Young-joon, Kim Jong-woo, Shim Sang-min, Shin Kwang-hoon, Jung Jae-hee, and Baek Sung-dong due to injury. “We have fewer resources to make changes in the second half,” Kim said. Ulsan, on the other hand, had the return of Kim Young-kwon after the A-Match break last month, as well as Lee Cheong-yong and Martin Adam (Hungary), who can change the course of a game.
Naturally, a tactical battle between Kim and Ulsan coach Hong Myung-bo will be in the spotlight. Pohang can stay in the title race with Ulsan with a win. Ulsan is also in a tight spot as Pohang and Daejeon Hana Citizens are the only teams they haven’t beaten this season. Due to the nature of the derby, the motivation of both teams is bound to be higher than usual.