South Korea’s golden boy Son Heung-Min scored twice in extra time to give the Taeguk Warriors a 2-0 win over Uzbekistan in a nail-biting Asian Cup quarter-final on Thursday.
The man dubbed “Sonaldo” by his teammates scored with a diving header after 104 minutes and slammed home a second a minute from the final whistle, leaving on a stretcher with exhaustion as the Koreans set up a meeting against either Iran or Iraq in the last four.
South Korea, World Cup semi-finalists in 2002 but seeking to end 55 years of hurt in Asia’s showcase tournament, had to toil for their victory against 2011 semi-finalists Uzbekistan in Melbourne.
Goalkeepr Kim Jin-Hyeon flew off his line to deny Sanjar Tursunov, looking menacing in the early skirmishes, as Uzbekistan’s aerial assault caused havoc in the Korean defence.
At the other end, Son’s curling effort was clawed away brilliantly by Ignatiy Nesterov in an absorbing first half.
Striker Lee Jeong-Hyeop’s header forced another acrobatic save from Nesterov five minutes after the break, but moments later Kim’s attempted clearance almost ricocheted into the Korean goal after cannoning off defender Kim Jin-Su’s backside.
The Koreans continued to press, a mazy run from Son taking him past three players only to be robbed by a last-ditch tackle as he prepared to pull the trigger.
An air-shot from Nam Tae-Hee with the goal at his mercy added to South Korea’s frustration, though the Red Devils were lucky to escape when Lutfulla Turaev contrived to miss an open goal after 78 minutes after being picked out by Sardor Rashidov.
But as both teams began to wilt, Son popped up to glance Kim Jin-Su’s dinked cross past Nesterov’s despairing dive before collapsing to the turf with fatigue, having recently been floored by a flu bug.
Son then capped a gutsy display by smashing home from close range after a lung-busting charge down the right from substitute Cha Du-Ri. – Agence France-Presse