Taeguk Warriors fall to Northern Ireland 2-1 in Belfast
Northern Ireland’s second-half substitute Paul Smyth scored the late winner at Windsor Park to defeat Korea. It was Korea’s first loss this year.
The match was one of two friendly matches before Korea announces their final roster for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in May. The men’s national team will face Poland tomorrow.
Korea, led by head coach Shin Tae-yong, is in Group F at the World Cup in Russia, along with Germany, Mexico and Sweden. Shin had emphasized that the friendly with Northern Ireland was to prepare for their World Cup clash against Sweden.
“In football, you have to score when you create chances, but we failed to do it,” Shin said after the match. “We penetrated Northern Ireland’s defense well, but we just couldn’t convert it.”
Wearing their new World Cup kit for the first time, Shin’s side started with a 4-3-3 formation that featured the attacking trio of Son Heung-min, Kim Shin-wook and Kwon Chang-hoon.
Korea, ranked 59th in the latest FIFA rankings, drew first blood in the seventh minute against No. 24 Northern Ireland. Former Borussia Dortmund man Park Joo-ho lobbed the ball into the penalty area for Kwon, who finished nicely with his left foot for a 1-0 lead.
It was Kwon’s first international goal since September 2015.
Korean goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu stepped up in the 13th minute as he denied Gareth McAuley’s close-range strike. Jamie Ward’s follow-up did find the back of the net, but his goal was ruled offside.
Northern Ireland, led by head coach Michael O’Neill, made their first substitution in the 18th minute, when right back Conor McLaughlin came on for injured Aaron Hughes.
Korea scored an own goal in the 20th following a Northern Irish set piece. Two players ran over the ball before Oliver Norwood threaded his short free kick to Ward, who ran down the right side of the box. Ward then sent in a low cross, which Kim Min-jae put into his own net while trying to clear.
The two sides exchanged shots early in the second half. Josh Magennis’ left-footed strike in the 47th minute was tipped away by goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu. In the 53rd, Lee Jae-sung’s attempt went inches wide of the net and Park Joo-ho’s strike four minutes later was stopped by goalkeeper Trevor Carlson, who was playing his first match for Northern Ireland.
Korea replaced Kwon with Red Bull Salzburg forward Hwang Hee-chan in the 61st. Northern Ireland followed with a double substitution a minute later with Conor Washington and Liam Boyce replacing Corry Evans and Ward.
After Lee Jae-sung’s left-footed strike missed the target, Korea replaced their two central midfielders in the 67th: Jung Woo-young for Ki Sung-yueng and Lee Chang-min for Park Joo-ho. Northern Ireland also took off Jonny Evans for Craig Cathcart.
Son, who scored 18 goals for Tottenham Hotspur this season, fired a left-footed strike in the 72nd, but went for a corner. The 25-year-old was then replaced by Yeom Ki-hun.
Korea had a promising chance in the 80th minute. Lee Jae-sung set up Kim Shin-wook to score from the close range, but the towering strikers’ effort was blocked by McLaughlin’s sliding challenge. Two minutes later, Lee Chang-min unleashed a left-footed strike, but it flew over the net.
Northern Ireland then made another substitution in the 82nd, when Paul Smyth came on for Jordan Jones. It was Smyth who punished the visitors just four minutes after he entered the game. The Queens Park Rangers forward, who was making his Northern Ireland debut at age 20, fired a right-footed strike to give the hosts a 2-1 lead.
Korea tried to level the score in the 89th with Kim Shin-wook’s header, but it went wide.
“We were on a pitch we had never on played before, so we had some difficulties,” Shin said. “Son was tightly marked and he’ll face similar situations in the future. We have to make Son shine, but he also needs to fight hard to overcome the difficulties.”