Asian Cup 2019: Not at his best, but Son Heung-min is still a threat as South Korea reach last eight

Matt Jones 22/01/2019
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Son assisted both goals in Korea's win over China, but was less influential against Bahrain.

The Taegeuk Warriors earned a battling 2-1 win over Bahrain to move into the Asian Cup quarter-finals, with Kim Jin-su the hero in extra-time.

Bahrain had defended stoutly up until the 43rd minute and to be truthful South Korea had seen little of the goal before Hwang Hee-chan swept home after good work down the right from Lee Yong.

Bahrain levelled 13 minutes from time when Mohamed Al Romaihi also profited from a rebound to make it 1-1 and send the game to an additional 30 minutes. The winner came down the right again and from a Yong delivery as Kim’s delicious diving header deservedly won it.

30-second report

South Korea have definitely been more fluid with their talisman Son Heung-min in the UAE. He missed the first two group games but was back to deliver two assists in the 2-0 win over China.

And he was at the heart of their attacks as they earned a spot in the last eight here, playing a starring role in the opening goal, spraying a delightful pass out to Yong whose delivery into the box caused chaos and yielded the opener for Hwang.

Korea stepped on the gas after the break in search of a killer second and should have done with Son pulling the strings. They were wasteful though and conceded an equaliser before Kim won it in extra-time.

Here we take a closer look at the Spurs’ star’s performance.

2201 son focus (1)

Got right – Sight of him is a fright

Son scares the life out of opponents. Before kick-off he would have been marked as the dangerman. And even when he wasn’t having his most influential game, he was still more dangerous than most.

He played three key passes (Korea made eight in total), with one sublime pass to Hwang Ui-jo almost leading to a goal. He served notice of his talent when he beat two defenders with silky skills to earn a corner, while it was his vision and pass to Yong that created the opening goal.

Got wrong – Final pass lacking

Although the Taegeuk Warriors have other fine players in their ranks bar Son, he is the one that makes them tick. He was in the thick of the action and a lot of his close control and approach play was good but he was never quite able to fashion an opening or create space for himself to have a shot on goal.

He orchestrated proceedings but his 80.7 per cent pass accuracy was lower than nine of his colleagues in red and he gave the ball away cheaply a couple of times.

Verdict 6/10

Are we guilty of expecting too much, too often, from Son? Definitely. But the reason for that is because he usually does deliver and seems to thrive on the pressure.

He wasn’t at his best here but most of the good things Korea did still went through him, and he always carried a threat. He will have more influence on games, but the good news is that with Korea still in contention, we’ll get to see plenty more of him.

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Asian Cup 2019: South Korea battle to victory over brave Bahrain

Matt Jones 22/01/2019
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Kim Jin-su's fine diving header won it for Korea in extra-time.

The Taegeuk Warriors were made to fiercely battle for a berth in the Asian Cup quarter-finals as brave Bahrain pushed them all the way.

South Korea needed 120 minutes to progress, with Kim Jin-su’s delicious diving header sending them through.

Korea broke Bahrain’s resistance on the stroke of half-time. Skipper Son Heung-min picked out marauding right-back Lee Yong and his fizzed low cross was only parried by Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Shubbar into the path of Hwang Hee-chan who fired home.

Several opportunities were wasted to kill the game off and that gave Bahrain hope. Hope morphed into heroism 13 minutes from time when Mohamed Al Romaihi pounced to level. Korea’s class eventually told but they will be mightily relieved.

GOOD

Hwang Hee-chan opened the scoring and had a fine game.

Hwang Hee-chan opened the scoring and had a fine game.

It’s not all about Son: The captain rightly grabs a lot of the spotlight for Korea but while he was a factor in victory, several supporting actors caught the eye.

Hwang Hee-chan scored the crucial opening goal and buzzed around the pitch with intent throughout, while holding midfielder Hwang In-beom knitted things together beautifully in the engine-room. Both are only 22 and have bright futures.

Bahrain don’t bow down: Bahrain showed Korea the respect they deserved, but they did not bow down to the might of one of Asia’s heavyweights. They had to defend for long periods and don’t possess the quality Korea have in abundance, but they dispelled the myth that they are minnows.

After weathering a Taegeuk Warriors surge at the start of the second half, they settled and re-established an attacking rhythm.

BAD

Warriors are wasteful: General Paulo Bento sent his side out with intent in the second half, knowing if they could stamp their authority on the game, victory could be quickly sewn up. But though chances were fashioned, his troops failed to fire.

Bahrain indiscipline: Before they equalised, Bahrain had threatened to implode. Needless fouls were given away and every one was followed by a group of perplexed players haranguing the referee. Cooler heads eventually prevailed but senseless bookings could have derailed them.

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Gear change: Korea had offered precious little before taking the lead on the stroke of half-time, but they opened up the second period intent on stepping on the accelerator. String-puller Son started to sparkle with shots peppering the Bahrain box.

They stepped it up a notch again in extra-time and were eventually rewarded.

KEY MOMENTS

4th min CHANCE: A hopeful long punt forward from Bahrain keeper Sayed Shubbar is only half-cleared and Mohamed Marhoon’s venomous shot whistles just wide

32nd min CHANCE: Son plays a cute reverse ball into Hwang Ui-jo but Shubbar gets there just ahead of him

33rd min CHANCE: Beautiful football, Hwang Hee-chan plays a one-two with Hwang In-Beom. The winger shows good feet but a superb tackle from Hamad Al Shamsan denies him.

43rd min GOAL: Started by Son, who sprays play wide to the onrushing Lee Yong, the right-back’s fizzed delivery causes havoc, parried by Shubbar but only to Hwang Hee-chan who gleefully sweeps home.

70th min CHANCE: Jamal Rashed fashions some space and his sumptuous curler is goal-bound before being clawed behind by Kim in the Korea goal.

77th min GOAL: Bahrain have persevered and been rewarded. Mahdi Al Humaidan’s effort is cleared off the line by Hong Chul. But Al Romaihi is on hand to smash in at the third attempt.

90th+4 min CHANCE: A glorious chance to win it. Waleed Al Hayam doesn’t get enough on his attempted back pass and Hwang Ui-jo is in. His side foot shot is sloppy and hopelessly wide.

105th min CHANCE: Son swings in a corner and Kim Young-gwon is afforded a free header but nods wide somehow.

105th+2 min GOAL: It doesn’t matter. Korea attack and Lee’s cross is buried by substitute Kim Jin-su’s brilliant diving header.

107th min WOODWORK: Korea are trying to close the game out and Ju Se-jong’s deflected daisy cutter crashes off the post.

VERDICTS

South Korea: B+

Class eventually told and they proved they are more than just the Son of their parts. The Tottenham titan, however, does unite a talented cast and they are now playing well, which should fill opponents with fear.

Bahrain: B-

Brave, bold, but beaten. Getting to the knockouts is an achievement and going out to one of the favourites by just one goal warrants nothing but praise.

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Alberto Zaccheroni hails UAE determination and calls for improvement in quarter-finals

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UAE advanced to the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup in dramatic fashion, beating Kyrgyzstan 3-2 after extra time.

UAE held a 2-1 lead as the game passed the regulation 90 minute mark, but Tursunaly Rustamov headed in a stunning equaliser to extend the drama.

Luck was on the side of the hosts though as UAE were awarded a penalty on 103 minutes and Ahmed Khalil restored their advantage.

Kyrgyzstan then might have sent the game to a penalty shoot-out, but Rustamov struck the crossbar with eight minutes left.


UAE held on and will next face Australia for a place in the semi-finals.








Coach Alberto Zaccheroni said: “We have seen a very difficult game tonight.


“In extra time our players, who I am so grateful to, found a great performance with high spirit and positivity.”



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