Late Son goal secures Korea a 2-1 win over Syria
Korea defeated Syria 2-1 in the third round of qualifiers for the 2022 Qatar World Cup at Ansan Wa Stadium in Ansan, Gyeonggi on Thursday evening.
Head coach Paulo Bento took a different approach for the current round of qualifiers, calling up tried-and-tested Taeguk Warriors for the Syria game, including Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, Kim Min-jae of Fernerbahce, Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton, Hwang Ui-jo of Bordeaux, Lee Jae-sung of Mainz and Hwang In-beom of Rubin Kazan. Jung Woo-young also joined the match after sitting out the earlier games after somebody on his flight tested positive for Covid-19.
With all the big guns on the same team, Syria was supposed to be a fairly easy opponent, ranked at No. 81 to Korea’s No. 36, making it one of the lower-ranked teams in Group A.
But the Korean team once again struggled to live up to the reputation of its individual components.
The first attempt at goal came from Hwang Ui-jo in the ninth minute, catching a cross from Lee Yong inside the box, but failing to beat the Syrian defense.
The game was mostly played on the Syrian side of the pitch, with Korea having a much higher possession of the ball. As expected, Syria was focusing on defense.
While Korea struggled to figure out Syria’s tight back line, the only real shot on target came from the opposition in the 20th minute, when a badly delivered pass allowed Syrian captain Omar Al Somah a serious chance on goal.
Hwang Hee-chan, who has been receiving international attention for his clutch performance with Wolverhampton, tried, but failed, to prove that success translated to the international stage, failing to convert all three real chances at goal in the 22nd, 39th and 41st minutes.
In the 42nd minute, Hwang Ui-jo caught a great assist from Hwang In-beom, dodged the defense and even the goalkeeper who had come out of the box but still failed to convert.
Korea ended the first half once again with an unproductive result — 10 attempts, but not a single one on target. Syria had only had three attempted shots, but at least managed to send one toward the goal.
Korea returned from the break looking like a much more cohesive team. The Warriors immediately went up, with Hwang In-beom finding the back of the net just two minutes into the half.
Substitutions quickly followed, suggesting Bento was planning to focus on keeping that one-goal lead while saving some legs for the upcoming Iran match. Song Min-kyu was replaced by Lee Jae-sung in the 55th minute and Hwang Ui-jo was replaced by Lee Dong-jun in the 68th minute.
Of course a one goal difference was never a safe margin, and Korea conceded a devastating equalizer to Omar Maher Zharbin in the 83rd minute. At a 1-1 tie, Korea was desperate to pick up three points against Syria ahead of the tough Iran fixture on Tuesday.
Five minutes later and two of the best players on the field were finally able to combine to put Korea back ahead. Kim Min-jae picked out Son on the edge of the box, who sent a left-footed shot past the goal keeper and into the net.
“I got the ball from Kim and thought that was realistically our last chance at a goal,” said Son. “All I knew was that I had to kick the ball into the net and I did it slowly and gently.”
Now Korea will now jet off to Iran for their match at Azadi Soccer Field in Tehran on Tuesday.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]