Kuala Lumpur Post

Sports

Son magic takes S. Korea into Asian Cup semi-final with Jordan

DOHA — Son Heung-min stepped up in extra time for South Korea with a sumptuous free-kick to see off Australia 2-1 on Friday and set up an Asian Cup semi-final with Jordan.

Jordan sealed their place in the last four for the first time in their history with a nervy 1-0 victory that brought Tajikistan’s fairytale journey in Qatar to an end.

South Korea and Tottenham skipper Son had yet to fully stamp his mark on the tournament but he delivered when it counted, also winning a penalty for Hwang Hee-chan to level deep in second-half stoppage time.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s side took a significant step towards lifting the Asian Cup for the first time since 1960.

“Fatigue, whatever – there are no excuses. We’re just trying to win the trophy and bring it back home,” said Son after his sparkling man-of-the-match display.

Australia opened the scoring in the 42nd minute when Hwang In-beom gave the ball away in defence and Connor Metcalfe floated the ball to the back post for Craig Goodwin to volley home.

South Korea looked dead and buried but Son was fouled in the box by Lewis Miller and Hwang held his nerve from the spot for a 96th-minute leveller.

South Korea were in the ascendancy now and Son curled in a sublime free-kick from the edge of the box in the 104th minute to win them the quarter-final.

Australia finished the match with 10 men after Aiden O’Neill was red-carded for lunging at Hwang at the end of the first period of extra time.

Klinsmann, who has been under fire for South Korea’s performances in Qatar, led his team in a wild celebration at the end.

“We’re still here and we’re going to be here to the very end,” he declared.

Australia’s coach Graham Arnold felt his side had the chances when leading to bury their opponents.

“We’re devastated at the moment, quite emotional for all the players and the staff,” he said.

“For the first 90-odd minutes we did very well until giving that penalty away. It’s been a great tournament for a lot of my players.”

He added: “We were up 1-0, we had chances for 2-0, 3-0, and if you don’t take your chances, you get punished.”

In the other quarter-final on the day, a deflected second-half own goal was just about enough for Jordan.

It was tough on charismatic Croatian coach Petar Segrt and his Tajikistan team, who were the lowest-ranked side left in Qatar and won plenty of new friends in their first Asian Cup.

But it was a piece of history for Jordan under their Moroccan coach Hussein Ammouta, the country having been defeated in their previous quarter-finals in 2004 and 2011.

“We were rewarded for our efforts and our ambitions are getting bigger and bigger,” said defender Yazan Al-Arab, who was named man of the match.

“This was history. We are into the semi-finals and we rely on our fans to keep supporting us no matter who we play.

“We need now to forget the Tajikistan match and concentrate on the semi-finals and our dream of reaching the final.”

A cagey game was decided on 66 minutes when Jordan defender Abdallah Nasib rose at a corner and his header deflected off Tajikistan’s Vahdat Hanonov and into his own goal.

Both sides had chances after that but Jordan held on.

“Nobody expected this (to go so far) at the tournament,” said Segrt.

“I was dreaming of something more, but now we see our limit.

“Tajikistan are going home but we can go home with honour and pride.”

In Saturday’s remaining quarter-finals, holders Qatar face Uzbekistan while pre-tournament favourites Japan play Iran. –AFP