Group C: Korea Republic 2-0 China PR
Abu Dhabi: Son Heung-min made his first and much-awaited AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 appearance on Wednesday as Korea Republic beat China PR 2-0 to make it three wins from three and claim top spot in Group C.
With both teams already through to the competition’s knockout phase, Son, who arrived in the Emirates earlier this week after being released by Tottenham Hotspur, captained the two-time champions of Asia as goals from Hwang Ui-jo and Kim Min-Jae saw the Taeguk Warriors set up a Round of 16 meeting against one of the best third-placed finishers from either Group A, B or F in Dubai next Tuesday.
After succumbing to their first defeat of the tournament, Marcello Lippi’s Chinese side finished second in the group and will now face Thailand in Al Ain on Sunday.
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The match started at a frenetic pace, with China goalkeeper Yan Junling reacting smartly to deny Hwang Ui-jo in quick succession and Kim Min-jae heading Son’s corner narrowly wide on eight minutes.
A mere five minutes later, Korea Republic were ahead, the influential Son weaving his way into the Chinese penalty area before being brought down by Shi Ke’s outstretched leg. Hwang Ui-jo duly dispatched the spot-kick with aplomb to hand his side an early lead.
China could – and very possibly should – have drawn level in the 19th minute when Jin Jingdao latched onto Zhao Xuri’s raking pass but proceeded to sky his shot over the bar with only Kim Seung-gyu to beat.
Shortly after that, Hwang Hee-chan’s drilled effort forced Yan into another fine stop, and in the final noteworthy moment of an absorbing first-half contest, Hwang Ui-jo hit an upright with a wonderful curling effort as Korea Republic’s dominance showed no sign of abating.
Within six minutes of the restart, the Koreans had a second, Kim Min-Jae this time finding the target with a bullet header from another pinpoint Son corner.
Shortly before the hour mark, Jung Woo-young headed Son’s free-kick only just over the bar and then, at the other end, Wu Xi flashed a shot off target when well-placed.
As Son continued to shine until his late substitution, another of his corners resulted in Hwang Hee-chan sending a header agonisingly wide of Yan’s far post to leave the score unchanged and both sides reflecting on their contrasting fortunes ahead of the next round.
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