Not so friendly: 2 Korean players injured in 1-1 tie against Uzbekistan

March 27, 2015
Koo Ja-cheol breaks through. (Yonhap)

‘Captain’ Koo Ja-cheol, right, scored the first goal of the night. (Yonhap)

By Kwon Ji-youn

Two injuries marred South Korea’s first friendly of the year on home ground Friday night.

South Korea took an early lead against Uzbekistan at the Daejeon World Cup Stadium, graced by some 38,680 fans, but Uzbekistan took advantage of a Lee Jeong-hyeop-sized hole in the team to pull out a 1-1 draw.

With striker Lee carried out on a stretcher to treat a head injury, Uzbek forward Sardor Rashidov crossed the ball to Zokhir Kuziboyev, who tapped it past the goal line by a hair to level the score in the 30th minute. This was a goal for Kuziboyev in his A-match debut. South Korean defense hurried to clear the ball from harm’s way, but it was too late.

Earlier, winger Son Heung-min had crossed a corner kick from keeper Eldorbek Suyunov’s right to Koo Ja-cheol, who latched on to head the ball into the net’s top right corner.

South Korea threatened throughout the first half as they kept the ball at close quarters to the Uzbek goal. A number of Koo’s headers cleared the cross bar, and several of Son’s corner kicks landed dangerously inside the penalty box, but Rashidov, ravenous for a goal after Koo’s early header in the 14th minute, also aimed shot after shot at the Korean net with his razor-sharp left foot.

South Korea failed to make the most of chances in the 23rd and 24th minutes, and Uzbekistan defense Shavkat Mullajanov collected a yellow card for an intentional hindering of Kim Bo-kyung, who was bolting towards his target unmarked.

In the 27th minute, Lee leapt to connect a corner kick, but collided with an Uzbek defender and sustained an injury above his left eye. He was stretchered off the playing field drenched in blood, and manager Uli Stielike sent Ki Sung-yueng in to replace him.

Jeong Dong-ho, who had been deployed to fill Cha Du-ri’s shoes, also sustained an injury to his thigh, and was replaced by Kim Chang-soo.

Uzbek opened the second half with a couple of long rangers, with a particularly perilous counterattack in the 51st minute, and in the 52nd minute, a foul against Han granted South Korea a free kick just outside the Uzbek penalty box, despite protests by Uzbekistan. After a somewhat lengthy discussion, Son aimed a crisp shot above the wall of defense, but it sailed over the cross bar. Rashidov continued to badger the South Korean goal from keeper Kim Seung-gyu’s left.

Son left the match with an ankle injury and was replaced with Nam Tae-hee as Uzbekistan continued to dispossess South Korea, and in the 67th minute, Sanzhar Tursunov’s powerful mid ranger at the South Korean net was hampered by keeper Kim.

South Korea grabbed a chance in the 72nd minute, but offside was called. A subsequent foul gave Uzbekistan a free kick in the 76th minute, but the ball fell straight into keeper Kim’s arms.

Park Joo-ho’s replacement of Yun Suk-young seemed to perk the game up, and sharp passes among the South Korean offense almost ended their search for a second goal in the 84th minute, but Suyunov was a step ahead. Stielike deployed Han Kyo-won with 10 minutes left on the clock as Kim Bo-kyung collected a yellow card for injuring Azizbek Haydarov. A second goal never came.

Ki earned a final chance in the final five minutes, but was interrupted by Uzbek’s defense.

Before kick-off, the South Korean national team, wearing shirts that read “come back to us,” stood facing a screen showing a photograph of former U-23 national football team manager Lee Kwang-jong, who stepped down on Feb. 6 to focus on being treated for leukemia. South Korea now has nine wins, three draws and one loss in 13 matches against Uzbekistan. South Korea’s next friendly will be against New Zealand in Seoul on Tuesday.


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