Two goals from the South Korean talisman were enough to see off a battling Uzbekistan. His ability to make it through 120 minutes is perhaps even more impressive as he has been suffering from illness since the start of the tournament and wasn't expected to make it through 90 minutes.
South Korea are the most experienced nation in the tournament, although no one has participated in all 16 tournaments South Korea have appeared in more than anyone else. As mentioned in the group stage review they weren’t flamboyant but were certainly effective and managed to grab all 9 points on offer including a superb victory against Australia.
This achievement is made all the more impressive by the fact that two star players, Ja-Cheol Koo and Chung-Yong Lee, have been sent home and some of the squad have been unable to play thanks to illness. This has forced manager Uli Stielike to use 22 of 23-man squad already but they have not let it faze them.
Uzbekistan on the other hand are something of novices when it comes to the Asian Cup, they only became a footballing nation in the 90s and didn’t qualify for the tournament until 2004. In 2011 they surprised many by making it to the semi-finals but humiliation awaited. They lost 6-0 to Australia before they faced today’s opponents South Korea in the 3rd Place Playoff from which the Taeguk Warriors emerged 3-2 victors thanks three early goals.
Despite the opening 15 minutes being an energetic one neither was able was able to create chances of note. The first serious opportunity fell to Uzbek captain Odil Ahmedov when a cross found him unmarked inside the box but his fist touch was heavy allowing Jin-Hyeon Kim to come out and block his shot which went out for a throw. Hoffenheim’s Jin-Su Kim was a constant threat down the left from his position at left back and in the 18th minute he did well to get into the box before pulling it back. Keun-Ho Lee controlled it but multiple Uzbek defenders brilliantly blocked his effort.
Korea threatened again only a minute later when Heung-Min Son broke clear in the centre and played in Jung-Hyub Lee. The Sangju Sangmu striker was clear of the defender but appeared to panic and rushed his shot, firing wide from the edge of the area. Then Keun-Ho Lee was played in in an almost identical move to the previous chance. He managed to get his shot on target but Ignatiy Nesterov saved well before he kept on going to block Tae-Hee Nam’s shot from the rebound.
Uzbekistan suffered a huge blow in the 28th minute when their Captain, Ahmedov, who had also been one of their best players had to come off due to injury and was replaced by Timur Kapadze. Kapadze almost immediately had an opportunity to strike at goal when a pass into the box was deflected up into the air and Kapadze attempted the overhead but it went well wide.
The opening period of the second half was much the same as the first except there were multiple chances created for both sides. Barely a minute in Heung-Min Son had a free kick on the left hand side that he sent in low. It managed to evade several players in the box before Nesterov had to make a quick reaction save.
3 minutes later the Koreans won another free kick, this time on the opposite side and taken by Swansea’s Sung-Yong Ki. The delivery found Jung-Hyub Lee inside the box and he headed down into the ground before it bounced up and seemed destined for the top corner before Nesterov pulled off another incredible save. The Uzbeks broke but the danger seemed to be dealt with when they overran the ball until Jin-Hyeon Kim fired the ball against Jin-Su Kim and nearly caused an own goal.
Two bookings in quick succession followed for Tae-Hwi Kwak thanks to handball and Vitaliy Denisov for bringing down Tae-Hee Nam. Then Sardor Rashidov was played in with acres of space but he let the ball bounce which allowed Jin-Hyeon Kim to come out and clear. In clearing the danger he appeared to hurt his chest or side and was down for a minute or so before facing a corner that he misjudged but was lucky that it went wide.
Rashidov was then given the ball inside the box but he let the ball bounce allowing Jin-Hyeon Kim to come out and clear as well as injure himself in the process. A long hopeful ball from the back was sent forward and Shukhrat Mukhammadiyev missed the ball setting Keun-Ho Lee free but he fired into the side netting with hid first-time attempt.
Uzbekistan then had their best chance of the 90 minutes thanks to some superb build-up between Kapadze and Rashidov. The 23 year-old crossed the ball to the back post where Lutfulla Turayev was waiting unmarked but the ball was slightly too high. The goal was beckoning for Turayev but he could only head it wide to the relief of the South Koreans.
The Koreans best chance came 5 minutes later when Son found Sung-Yeung Ki after a superb run and the Captain then fed the ball into the box as Tae-Hee Nam was running in. All the former Valenciennes midfielder had to do was get it on target but he missed the ball completely to shock of all around the stadium.
That was the last chance of the 90 minutes and as the whistle blew neither looked like they were relishing the upcoming 30 minutes of extra time. In truth there was only one team in it in Extra Time. Uzbekistan did have one chance early on when Rashidov cut inside on the edge of the box and fired just over.
The first of Son’s goals was an extremely fortunate one. Mukhammadiyev dallied on the ball at the side of his own box and was dispossessed by Jin-Su Kim who whose subsequent cross was deflected into the path of Son. The Bayer Leverkusen player had to stoop low to head it in but he just managed to get it over the line. His second came as most of the Uzbekistan players were up at the other end trying to get the equaliser.
Du-Ri Cha took the ball and ran the length of the pitch before beating Djamshid Iskandarov and running into the box. Son had also run the length the pitch but held back at the edge of the box as the defenders continued on creating himself some space. Du-Ri Cha duly noted the space and he pulled it back for the attacker and Son fired into the roof of the net to seal the victory.