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Korea Republic's reign continues


Palembang: Extra time goals by Lee Seung-woo and Hwang Hee-chan steered Korea Republic to a 2-1 win over Japan in the 2018 Asian Games Indonesia men's football final at the Pakan Sari Stadium on Saturday.

Korea Republic deserved the win, having dominated the final as they defended the gold medal won on home soil in the 2014 Games, but Japan produced a plucky performance which augurs well for their 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games preparations.

It was a highly anticipated final between two of Asia's biggest teams and the fans packed the Pakan Sari Stadium stands, having earlier witnessed the United Arab Emirates defeat Vietnam in a penalty shoot-out to claim the bronze.

Korea Republic, who had grown from strength to strength as the tournament progressed, were the quicker to settle as Japan struggled to get the ball.

Korea Republic went in search of an early goal and came agonisingly close in the seventh minute with talisman Son Heung-min releasing a square pass to Hwang In-beom, who was quick to send it across the face of goal but Hwang Ui-jo just failed to connect.

Korea Republic continued to press but Japan, who had shown great resilience on the road to the final, defended well and could have even taken the lead off a counter attack in the 28th minute.

Skipper Koji Miyoshi showed great skill on the right flank to beat two Korean defenders before unleashing a shot from an acute angle but goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo was alert and pushed the ball to safety.

The second half saw more of the same as Korea Republic continued to press for the opening goal but as their high pace took its toll, Japan began to see more of the ball.

Neither side, however, could find a breakthrough, forcing an additional 30 minutes.

Korea Republic, who looked the fresher of the two sides going into extra time, quickly seized control and took the lead three minutes in when Lee Jin-hyun released the ball to Son, who weaved his way past several defenders but just as he prepared to unleash a shot, Seung-woo rifled the ball into the top of the net.

Eight minutes later, Korea Republic doubled their lead as Son floated in a free-kick from the left and Hee-chan, who had earlier on Saturday sealed a loan move to German club Hamburger SV, rose unchallenged to nod home.

Ayase Ueda, who had scored two late goals for Japan in their earlier matches, pulled one back in the 115th minute when he headed in a corner but there was not to be a second goal as Korea Republic hung on to claim gold for the second successive Asian Games and fifth overall.

Photos: AFP