Korea booked a ticket to the final of the Asian Games men’s football tournament on Wednesday, beating Uzbekistan 2-1 in a very physical semifinal at HSC Stadium in Hangzhou, China.
The young Taeguk Warriors started the game looking calm and collected with a strong lineup that included Paik Seung-ho, Jeong Woo-yeong, Hong Hyun-seok, Cho Young-wook, Um Won-sang and Lee Kang-in.
That offensive power was very quickly on display, with Korea going up in the third minute with a perfectly executed four-man set piece that saw Lee tap the ball from a free kick to Um for a cross over the wall to Hong on the edge of the box to tap across the goal to Jeong to knock in.
But despite the star-studded squad, Korea seemed to struggle initially respond to Uzbekistan’s aggressive approach, frequently seeing attacks interrupted by technical — or sometimes quite untechnical — fouls.
Uzbekistan were able to tie things up in the 25th minute with a direct free kick that took a deflection off Paik’s head — one that was arguably intended to be a clearance and could have seen him slapped with an own goal — and into the back of the net.
That tied the score at 1-1, but Korea did not take long to bounce back. Just 12 minutes later, Jeong got his second goal of the game and sixth of the tournament — making him the current golden boot favorite — when he picked up a lost ball in the box and tapped it past the goalkeeper to take the score to 2-1.
That was it for goal action, with Korea opting to take a number of changes in the second half — mostly by choice, although Um left the pitch injured — resulting in far less fire power and very few real threats on goal.
Uzbekistan went down to 10 men in the 74th minute when Abdurauf Buriev saw a second yellow for a very poorly timed challenge, but Korea were unable to capitalize on the numbers advantage and the score stayed 2-1.
Uzbekistan through everything including the goalkeeper into their attacks in the dying few minutes of the game but proved unable to break through a heavily-reinforced Korean defense. After six minutes of stoppage time, the referee blew the whistle and guaranteed Korea either a gold or silver medal.
The young Taeguk Warriors will go on to face old rivals Japan in the final on Saturday, with gold medal glory, a title defense and military service exemptions on the line.
Uzbekistan will face Hong Kong, who lost 4-0 to Japan on Wednesday, in the bronze medal match earlier on the same day.
Source : Korea JoongAng Daily