Abu Dhabi: Son Heung-min made a winning start to his campaign in the AFC Asian Cup as South Korea completed their Group H fixtures with a 2-0 win over China at the Al Nahyan Stadium on Wednesday. At half-time, South Korea led through a penalty by Hwang Ui-jo. Kim Min-jae completed the tally by scoring from a corner in the second half.
The match got under way with the PA system building up the tempo with the South Korean musician Psy’s hit number ‘Gangnam Style.’ The Koreans, bolstered by the inclusion of their star Son, were grooving already and the Tottenham Hotspur striker, leading the side in his first outing, gave the required thrust almost instantaneously.
Son’s guile with the ball was a bit too much for the Chinese defence to handle as defender Shi Ke stuck his foot out — enough for the former to draw a penalty. Hwang Ui-jo then made sure that the ball was in the back of the net with a pinpoint grounder from the spot.
The Chinese, well aware that being on the defensive would hurt them, further pressed for an equaliser and Jin Jingdao had the opportunity off a long ball. Though Jingdao did well to trap the ball, his final touch sailed over the bar.
The Koreans came close to scoring twice in quick succession in the 21st and 23rd minutes. First, a powerpacked rightfooted volley from outside the box by Hwang Hee-chan was kept out with a reflex save by Chinese goalkeeper Yan Junling. Then goalscorer Hwang Ui-jo saw his right-footed effort from the left side of the box find the right vertical.
The lead was doubled immediately after the change of end following a corner; Son’s pinpoint release and Kim Min-jae rose in time to nod home.
Thereafter, the Koreans were all over the Chinese territory with wave of attacks.
Hwang Ui-jo had an opportunity to widen the lead in the 52nd minute when he had the lone goalkeeper Junling to beat but he delayed his shot and in the end, it was a lame effort.
Thereafter, the Koreans were more keen on holding on to the ball and playing out for time. The Chinese kept pressing but they ran out of ideas once inside the box. In the end, those two goals was enough for South Korea to finish at the top of their Group with nine points.
The will play one of the best third-placed finishers. China, having finished second in the group, will be taking on Thailand, who finished second in Group A.