Korean sides have contrasting results in Asian Cup openers
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — The two Koreas had contrasting fortunes but matching rainy weather in their opening games at the Asian Cup on Saturday.
South Korea beat Oman 1-0 through Cho Yong-cheol’s goal in first-half stoppage time, with drizzle first falling in the national capital of Canberra.
Two hours later in Sydney, with the rain coming down heavily for most of the match, Igor Sergeev’s 62nd-minute header helped Uzbekistan to a 1-0 win over North Korea.
It was being billed as Super Saturday at the 16-team tournament, the second day of competition following Australia’s opening 4-1 win over Kuwait on Friday.
China made it two out of three for east Asian countries with a 1-0 upset win over Saudi Arabia later Saturday.
China failed to make it out of the group stage in the last two Asian Cup tournaments, but Yu Hai’s goal in the 81st minute gave the Chinese three points.
Saudi Arabia went into the match without its captain and star forward Nassir Al Shamrani, who was ruled out of the Asian Cup with an abdominal injury earlier in the day.
South Korea joined Australia on three points in Group A, sitting behind the Socceroos on goal difference.
At Canberra, both teams had scoring opportunities in the first half. South Korea’s Son Heung-min hit the top of the crossbar with a looping shot after seven minutes, while Qasim Said and Abdulaziz Al-Maqbali failed to capitalize on counter-attacking chances for Oman.
The only goal of the match came when ex-Premier League goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi parried a Koo Ja-cheol shot and Cho poked the rebound home.
“I prefer to start a tournament like today in a tough game and learn from our mistakes ... compared to winning 5-0 and everyone saying that you will win the Cup,” South Korea coach Uli Stielike said. “In the second half, we did things very much calmer and cooler and our game was much better.”
Oman’s next match is against Australia in Sydney on Tuesday, when South Korea takes on Kuwait in Canberra.
On Sunday in Group C matches, the United Arab Emirates plays Qatar at Canberra and Iran takes on Bahrain at Melbourne.