‘No championship, no promotion’…Biting his lip

Busan Ice Park head coach Park Jin-seop urged his players not to forget the tears of the fans after the team failed to win promotion.

Busan failed to win promotion to the K League One after losing 2-5 after 120 minutes of extra time in the second leg of the Hana OneQ K League Promotion Playoffs 2023 against Suwon FC at Suwon Sports Complex on Sept. 9.

Busan, which finished last in the 2020 K League 1 and was relegated to the second division, was on the verge of returning to the top flight after four years. Prior to the second leg, Busan conceded an early goal in the first leg of the playoffs at Busan Asiad Stadium on April 6, but scored two goals in the second half from penalties to pull off a 2-1 upset.

Not only did they go into the second leg with a one-goal lead, but with Lee Seung-woo, Suwon’s top scorer with 10 goals and three assists this season, missing the second leg after being sent off for accumulating cautions in the first leg, Busan’s chances of promotion looked better than ever.

In the second leg, Busan took a step closer to promotion when Choi Joon scored in the 16th minute of the first leg to extend their lead to 3-1.

But Suwon fought back fiercely. In front of a home crowd of 6,987 fans, Suwon pounded the Busan goal repeatedly and extended the match with back-to-back goals from Kim Hwan and Lee Young-jae in the 34th and 41st minutes, respectively, to make the score 3-3.

With the game tied at 3-3, Busan conceded two goals in the first half of overtime to Lee Kwang-hyuk and Jung Jae-yong, putting them in danger of defeat. Kim Jung-hwan scored a goal in the second half of overtime to keep their hopes alive, but they immediately conceded a goal to Lopez and ended the second game with a 2-5 loss.

Despite a 2-1 come-from-behind win in the first leg, Busan lost the second leg with a combined score of 4-6 and failed to win the promotion playoffs. After four years of trying and failing to win promotion to the K League, Busan will spend the next season in the K League 2.

After the game, the Busan players could barely keep their heads up in shock that they had failed to win promotion. This was especially true as the team had high hopes of returning to the K League 1 after four years while competing for the title in the K League 2 this season.

Busan ended the season as runners-up in the final match of the K League 2, conceding a late equalizer to Chungbuk Cheongju FC in extra time. At the time, Busan conceded a theater goal to Giorgi with six minutes left in stoppage time, ending the game in a 1-1 draw.

On the same day, Gimcheon Commerce won the K League 2 title with 71 points to earn direct promotion as they won the league final 1-0 against Seoul Eland. Conversely, Busan, with 70 points from the reverse draw, finished as runners-up by just one point and entered the relegation playoffs.

In the relegation playoffs, Busan took a step closer to promotion with a win in Game 1, but were unable to withstand Suwon’s onslaught in Game 2 and will spend another season in the K League 2.

At the post-match press conference, Park said, “It was our last game, and even though we had the lead, it was a disappointing game. I apologize to the fans because they must have hoped for promotion,” he said.

“The players did more than I expected to come this far. I want to thank them for that,” he said, adding, “We will do our best to improve and become a team that can challenge for promotion next year.”

“We didn’t want to draw, but I think we had some physical problems,” Park said, explaining why the team scored the first goal in the first half but lost control of the game to Suwon in the second half. “This led to an unexpected goal, and I think the atmosphere shifted to their side.”

“I told the players after the game, ‘We’ve been struggling for a year, we’ve done a good job, and we shouldn’t get down on ourselves because of this one game, but let’s forget it’s over and spend the rest of the year well,'” he said, adding, “I’m sure they’re disappointed, but they need to move on quickly.”

He also said, “Don’t forget the tears the fans shed and the tears you shed, and let’s strive for promotion next year.”

When asked about what Busan needs next season, Park said, “I think goal determination is the most important thing. I don’t think there will be any major changes to the players,” he said, explaining, “We need to find a foreign player who can be responsible for scoring goals, and we need to refine the details such as finishing.”

After finishing last in the K League 1 in 2020 and being relegated to the second division, Busan was on track for promotion in four years, but once again fell short. It will be interesting to see if Park can get the squad back together and come back with a stronger team next season and challenge for promotion once again with Busan.

At the same time, the promotion playoff between Gangwon FC and Gimpo FC at Gangneung Sports Complex ended in a 2-1 victory for Gangwon, thanks to Gabriel’s multi-goal performance. With the first leg ending in a 0-0 draw, the aggregate score of 2-1 ensured that Gangwon would remain in the K League 1 alongside Suwon.

Gimpo, who finished third in K League 2, also failed to gain promotion and will spend the 2024 season in K League 2 with Busan.

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