Kwon Chang-hoon puts Korea ahead in 1-0 win over Lebanon
The Korean national football team pulled off a much-needed 1-0 win against Lebanon on Tuesday evening at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi.
Despite having a lot to prove in the match, the Taeguk warriors took a blow even before the whistle blew as captain Son Heung-min was ruled out of the qualifier due to a right leg injury.
Cho Gue-sung was on the front line instead of Son, with Na Sang-ho and Hwang Hee-chan on the wings. Lee Dong-gyeong and Lee Jae-sung worked as central midfielders while Hwang In-beom hung back between the midfield and defense, with Hong Chul, Kim Youg-gwon, Kim Min-jae and Lee Yong making up the back line.
Korea did everything right except score in the first half, outplaying Lebanon in terms of shots on target, ball possession and even defense, but once again failing to convert. When the whistle blew for half time, there were signs the match could end up being a repeat of last week's embarrassing draw against Iraq.
But unlike last week, Korea was able to keep aggressively striking while keeping the ball in the Lebanese half for the majority of the match.
Lee Dong-gyeong showed off some tricks he had picked up on the big stage just about 10 minutes into the match, shooting a volley shot from outside the box that missed the post by a small margin.
With not much to do on the Korean side of the box, center back Kim "the Monster" Min-jae demonstrated his all-round talent as he was often seen in the Lebanese half assisting the attack.
But despite the effort, Korea was unable convert and take a lead in the first half. Desperate to open the scoring, Hwang Hee-chan, undoubtedly keen to make a name for himself following his recent signing with Wolverhampton Wanderers, kept up the pressure but repeatedly ran foul of the Lebanese goalie.
Korea's chance came 15 minutes into the second half, and Kwon Chang-hoon was the one to do it just moments after he came on the field.
Kwon and Song Min-kyu had come on for Lee Dong-gyeong and Na Sang-ho 12 minutes into the second half and three minutes later, Hwang Hee-chan set the ball up with a cross from the left and Kwon slotted in his seventh national team goal with confidence.
Kwon's goal was it for the match and Korea took a much-needed three points when the whistle blew. A tough 1-0 finish against a significantly lower ranked team isn't a good sign for the Taeguk Warriors, but a win's a win and Korea can now look on to the next one.
"I felt a sense of responsibility," said Kwon after the match.
"But it feels good to have won this match. Two down, eight to go. Every single match will be challenging but if we prepare well, we will play well."
"We were disappointed yes, but we had this match to focus on and that is what we did," Kwon said when asked about the atmosphere after last week's disappointing draw against Iraq. "Just being on the national team is a great honor for me and I plan to do my utmost in the remaining qualifiers."
The Taeguk Warriors will next face Syria on Oct. 10.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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