S Korea blank Phlippines 1-0 to open Group C campaign

January 7, 2019

South Korea defeated the Philippines 1-0 to open their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup on Monday, as their quest to end a long continental title drought got off to a winning start.

Forward Hwang Ui-jo stayed hot with his fourth goal in six matches in Group C action against the Asian Cup debutants at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, giving the heavy favorites their lone goal in a match they thoroughly dominated.

Hwang Ui-jo of South Korea (R) scores against the Philippines in the teams' Group C match of the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, on Jan. 7, 2019. (Yonhap)
Lee Jae-sung of South Korea (C) attempts a header against the Philippines in the teams' Group C match of the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, on Jan. 7, 2019. (Yonhap)

Hwang Ui-jo of South Korea (R) scores against the Philippines in the teams’ Group C match of the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, on Jan. 7, 2019. (Yonhap)

South Korea are chasing their first Asian Cup title since 1960. They extended their undefeated streak under head coach Paulo Bento to eight matches, with four wins and four draws.

South Korea’s next match will be against Kyrgyzstan on Friday in Al Ain, followed by China on Jan. 16 in Abu Dhabi.

In the first Group C match held earlier Monday, China got past Kyrgyzstan 2-1 in Al Ain.

South Korea, ranked 53rd in the world, dominated ball possession against the 116th-ranked Philippines from the get-go, but couldn’t break through the parked 18-wheeler that was the defensive wall. South Korea didn’t help themselves with some egregiously sloppy passes in the offensive zone.

The Philippines lined up as many as six players on defense and often outnumbered South Korean attackers in the box.

South Koreans kept buzzing in and around the net, but didn’t record their first shot on target until the 40th minute.

Hwang Ui-jo, South Korea’s hottest goal scorer since last summer’s Asian Games, took a pass with his back to the net, and turned and fired a low shot that was stopped by diving goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard.

The Philippines had their best chance on the ensuing play, as Javier Patino’s volley from a Daisuke Sato cross forced Kim Seung-gyu to make a tough save.

Hwang had another opportunity in the 41st minute with a shot from the center of the box, only to be foiled by Falkesgaard again.

After something of a lull to start the second half, the Philippines nearly scored the match’s first goal on a counterattack chance in the 54th. Patino danced past multiple defenders along the left touchline and played a give-and-go before firing a low, hard shot from the center of the box. Kim Seung-gyu dove to his right to make his best save of the match.

South Korea made that save count in the 67th minute, as the two unrelated Hwangs — Hwang Ui-jo and Hwang Hee-chan — connected for the match’s lone score.

Midfielder Lee Chung-yong sent a through ball to the right side of the box for Hwang Hee-chan, who quickly found Hwang Ui-jo right at the goalmouth.

The forward then fired one to the top shelf, well out of Falkesgaard’s reach.

The Hwangs nearly combined for the team’s second goal in the 74th. Hee-chan did the setting up part again, and Ui-jo’s shot was barely kept out of the net by Falkesgaard.

South Korea continued to press for an insurance tally, but the Philippines held their ground and went down swinging in a match they could easily have lost by multiple goals.

South Korea picked up three yellow cards, with both starting full backs, Lee Yong and Kim Jin-su, each getting one.

South Korea will be without their most gifted offensive player, Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min, for at least the first two group matches. Under a prior agreement with South Korea, the Spurs agreed to release Son for the Asian Games last summer in exchange for keeping him in the Premier League at the time of a pair of November friendlies and the first two Asian Cup contests.

Son is set to join the national team next week, just before the third group match against China. Coach Bento may choose to rest Son for that game if South Korea clinch a knockout berth early.

There are 24 nations divided into six groups of four. The top two nations from each group, plus four-best third-place teams, will advance to the round of 16.

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