South Korea finish top of Group A with win against Australia
Lee Jeong-hyeop’s first-half goal gave South Korea a 1-0 win over host Australia on Saturday and top spot in Group A heading into the Asian Cup quarterfinals.
Both teams went into the game with six points, and two-time champion South Korea continued a sequence with its third straight 1-0 win. The Australians created opportunities but were held scoreless for the first time in the tournament after posting eight goals and conceding one in their opening games.
The result means Australia will play its quarterfinal against Group B leader China back at Brisbane on Thursday, while South Korea will meet the winner of Sunday’s Group B match between 2011 semifinalist Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia.
Oman finished third in Group A, picking up its first win with a 1-0 victory over Kuwait in Newcastle.
The Australians had almost two-thirds of possession in the first half, created more chances and had two shots on target, but South Korea took full advantage of its first genuine chance in the 32nd.
Captain Ki Sung-Yueng played the ball into the area for Lee Keun-ho, who steered a left-foot shot across the face of goal and Lee finished with a sliding touch to beat Mat Ryan.
The Australians had earlier chances when Tomi Juric shot from 25 yards in the 16th directly at South Korean goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon, who saved Nathan Burns’ hard strike at the near post a minute later. Massimo Luongo made some probing runs and created opportunities but the Australians lacked finish.
Australia went close to getting a first-half equalizer when James Troisi pivoted, turned and shot into the side-netting in the 34th. ThesStadium screen wrongly flashed up a goal, bringing a roar from the 48,513-crowd which was packed with fans in gold jerseys except for a large pocket of Korean fans behind the southern goal.
Burns made a strong run into the area in the 70th, beating three defenders but had his shot saved by Kim. It was his last act before being replaced by Robbie Kruise. Tim Cahill came on for Matt McKay in a double substitution.
Kruse had a chance for a late equalizer when he was one-on-one with Kim in the 88th, but the Korean goalkeeper made a desperate save from close range to preserve the lead.
Jang Hyunsoo then missed a chance to make it 2-0 on a counterattack in stoppage time when his effort was well blocked by Ryan.
Cahill got a yellow card at the other end following an aerial collision with Kim, and the `keeper stayed on the ground to be treated for cramp, drawing thunderous booing from the crowd.
The win was costly for a South Korean squad already dealing with injuries. Midfielder Park Joo-ho was treated for a bloody nose after a collision with Nathan Burns in the 29th and, after returning to play for 10 minutes, had to be replaced in the 41st minute by Han Kook-young.
Koo Ja-Cheol had to be replaced after landing awkwardly following a challenge of Matthew Spiranovic two minutes into the second half. He was carried off the field on a stretcher with what appeared to be an arm injury.