|Ulsan FC striker Junior Negrao, left, celebrates after scoring his first goal during the K League 1 first round against Sangju Sangmu at the Munsu Stadium in Ulsan, May 8. / Courtesy of Ulsan FC|
By Jhoo Dong-chan
Last year was disappointing for Ulsan FC fans. Anxious about the championship over the past 15 years, Ulsan had taken the first spot for longer than any other teams during the last season.
The team, however, had to concede the championship to its rival Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the last minute after it suffered a crushing defeat against Pohang Steelers in the final round.
Ulsan FC's Brazilian striker Gleidionor Figueiredo Pinto Junior, better known as Junior Negrao, expressed his resolve that this won't happen again this year.
In the first round of South Korea's top-tier football league, Junior connected team captain Kim Tae-hwan's through ball in the seventh minute against Sangju Sangmu at the Munsu Stadium in Ulsan, May 8.
The 33-year-old striker then completed his double with a penalty kick during stoppage time in the first half. He also assisted Lee Sang-heon's easy third goal in the 51st minute, helping Ulsan's 4-0 victory against the military-men team.
Junior was selected as the most valuable player for the first round of the K League 1.
He also scored twice once again in the second round against Suwon Samsung.
Unlike the team's smooth victory in the first round, Ulsan struggled in the first half against Suwon in the second round. The team conceded two goals in the first half in the away match.
It was, once again, Junior Negrao who salvaged the team by dribbling past Suwon defenders and scoring Ulsan's first goal in the 53rd minute. His teammate Kim In-sung also leveled the game in the 60th minute.
Junior then showed his versatility by connecting a free kick in the 89th minute, demonstrating he is a constant threat not only inside the penalty box but also in the entire final third area.
Junior was picked as MVP once again in the K League 1 second round.
"Junior's presence is huge in the team," Ulsan FC head coach Kim Do-hoon said. "His goal streak proves Ulsan is moving toward to right direction."
Junior made his K League debut in Daegu FC in 2017.
He scored 12 goals in 16 appearances in his first season. Valuing his scoring instinct, Ulsan traded for him in the following season. With Ulsan, he scored 46 goals in 71 appearances.