S. Korea beat Saudi Arabia for 1st win under Klinsmann

September 13, 2023

South Korea defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0 in their men’s friendly football match in England on Tuesday, giving beleaguered head coach Jurgen Klinsmann his first win in charge of the Taegeuk Warriors.

Striker Cho Gue-sung headed in the match’s lone goal in the 32nd minute at St. James’ Park in Newcastle, helping South Korea snap their winless skid under Klinsmann at five matches.

South Korea had three draws and two losses before Tuesday’s breakthrough.Klinsmann had been under siege for his questionable commitment to the South Korean job and his lack of tactical expertise. In particular, he had tried to fend off criticism over his work habits, as he has spent more time at his U.S. home than in South Korea.

One victory may not be enough to change the narrative instantly, but it will likely keep Klinsmann’s detractors quiet for the time being.

The teams traded some chances early, with South Korea looking sharper in the opening moments and Saudi Arabia pushing back later with their speed and deft passes.

In the ninth minute, Lee Ki-je’s left-footed shot from just inside the box, set up by Son Heung-min’s free kick from the left wing, rolled wide left of the target. For Saudi Arabia, Abdullah Al-Hamdan fired a dangerous-looking volley that bounced over the net in the 18th.

South Korean goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu stopped Salem Al-Dawsari on a three-on-two break in the 26th minute, after Abdullah Al-Hamdan’s through ball set up Saudi Arabia’s best chance in the first half.

South Korea broke the deadlock thanks to some fortuitous bounce in the 32nd minute. Saudi defender Ali Al-Bulaihi tried to clear a pass by Hwang In-beom out of harm’s way, but the ball instead went straight up in the air and floated toward the net. Cho Gue-sung beat everyone to the landing spot and headed the ball past goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais for his first international goal since the FIFA World Cup last November.

South Korea turned up their offensive pressure.

Son was robbed of a penalty in the 35th minute, with referee Andy Madley swallowing his whistle after Son got tripped up by Hassan Al-Tambakti in the area.

About three minutes later, Park Yong-woo set up Cho for a volley that went straight to Al-Owais.

Al-Owais came up huge in the 41st minute to keep Saudi Arabia within a goal, first making a save on Hwang Hee-chan’s left-footed shot from the center of the box and then denying Lee Jae-sung on the rebound.

Early in the second half, South Korea picked up where they left off. Son’s through ball sprung Lee Jae-sung behind three defenders in the 48th minute, and it took another tough save by Al-Owais to keep South Korea off the board.

Hwang Hee-chan challenged the Saudi Arabian goalkeeper from close range in the 55th minute, and Al-Owais was up to the task with a desperate kick save.

Saudi Arabia showed a bit more life in some late moments, though South Korea held their ground to hang on for the win.

South Korea will have two friendly matches at home next month: against Tunisia on Oct. 13 and against Vietnam on Oct. 17.