S. Korea defeats Myanmar to open World Cup qualification

June 16, 2015
Son Heung-min of South Korea celebrates after scoring a goal against Myanmar in a World Cup qualifying match in Bangkok on June 16, 2015. (Yonhap)

Son Heung-min of South Korea celebrates after scoring a goal against Myanmar in a World Cup qualifying match in Bangkok on June 16, 2015. (Yonhap)

BANGKOK, June 16 (Yonhap) — South Korea defeated Myanmar 2-0 on Tuesday to start the second round of the Asian qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Midfielder Lee Jae-sung headed in the opener in the first half and winger Son Heung-min scored a thunderous free kick past the hour mark in the Group G showdown at Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok.

South Korea is trying to qualify for its ninth consecutive World Cup finals.

Myanmar was the home team here. Myanmar is serving FIFA sanctions for crowd-control problems and was forced to play its home match in a neutral venue.

For the majority of the match, the 58th-ranked South Korea was frustrated by 143rd-ranked Myanmar, unable to capitalize on its vast advantage in ball possession as the underdogs clogged the lanes with eight or nine players at a time. The South Koreans dictated the pace from the get-go, but it took them more than half an hour to solve the Myanmar defense.

Yeom Ki-hun hit the right post in the sixth minute. Lee Jae-sung nearly had a one-on-one chance but goalkeeper Van Lal Hruaia charged out and beat Lee to the ball.

In the 11th minute, Son Heung-min aimed at the gaping net with Van Lal Hruaia caught out of position, but defender Win Min Htut, positioned right on the goal line, blocked Son’s hard volley.

The opening goal came in the 35th minute. Son took a corner kick and Van Lal Hruaia swung and missed the ball, allowing Lee Jae-sung to head in his second career international goal.

Son scored one himself in the 67th minute with a stunning free kick from outside the box that zipped past the outstretched hands of the helpless goalkeeper.

Son had earlier missed the mark on a pair of close-range opportunities.

South Korea kept the pressure on, with Son, midfielder Han Kook-young and defender Kim Jin-su taking their aims. Substitute Lee Yong-jae was all alone in point-blank range as he jumped on a rebound but shot right at Van Lal Hruaia in the 81st.

Off a free kick in the 84th, defender Kwak Tae-hwi just missed the far side with a powerful header.

On an 87th-minute breakaway, Lee Yong-jae dribbled past the goalkeeper and had an open net, but defender Zaw Lin cleared Lee’s rolling shot out of play.

Thoroughly overmatched, Myanmar barely mounted a challenge and South Korean keeper Kim Seung-gyu had a quiet day at the office.

In the second round, 40 nations have been paired into eight groups of five. The eight group winners and the four best runners-up will reach the next qualification stage, where they will be drawn into two groups of six.

South Korea is also paired with Kuwait, Laos and Lebanon in Group G.