South Korea draws 1-1 with Australia in Asian Cup

South Korea midfielder Koo Ja-cheol scored his third goal of the

Asian Cup in a 1-1 draw with Australia on Friday in a pulsating

encounter in the showcase group match of the tournament.

South Korea had the better start in the Group C game between two

of Asia’s top teams, and took the lead when Koo received a pass in

the area from striker Ji Dong-won and fired a shot past a diving

Mark Schwarzer in goal in the 24th minute.

But Australia had the better chances in the second half, and

equalized when a chip into the area from captain Lucas Neill found

Mile Jedinak, who headed home in the 62nd minute for his first

international goal.

”It could have been better when it came to the result of the

match,” South Korea coach Cho Kwang-rae said. ”For all the fans

watching the game, it was very exciting. When it comes to the

players’ performance, I quite appreciated their performance.”

Australia coach Holger Osieck agreed, saying both teams played

their hearts out.

”We have seen a very high-standard match today. Both teams have

great potential,” he said. ”It was a good game. At times it was

end to end. Both teams played football, tried to play football and

I think it was not only entertaining but, from a technical point of

view, very good.”

Osieck praised his team’s performance, especially its success in

the second half to close down South Korea’s midfield, which was

such a threat in the first 45 minutes.

”What I found very encouraging was that we created a couple of

chances, particularly in the first half,” Osieck said. ”We could

have scored probably a bit more. But we never gave up, even when we

(conceded) the goal from the goalkeeper’s long ball and there was

some turbulence in our penalty area. We never gave in and we got

back into the game.”

It was billed as a match of Asian heavyweights – even a possible

rehearsal for the final – with some of the best players in the

tournament.

It didn’t disappoint.

South Korea captain and playmaker Park Ji-sung, who plays for

Manchester United, made his presence felt early by having the first

shot on goal in the opening minutes. He would go on to threaten the

Australian defense for much of the first half.

Australia, which beat India 4-0 in its opening match, had the

first real chance in the seventh minute, Harry Kewell shooting over

the crossbar from inside the area and receiving the ball from a

free kick.

Tim Cahill had a chance seven minutes later but his header went

wide, then angrily protested that he was pushed by a defender.

South Korea, which beat Bahrain 2-1 on Monday, then stepped it

up. Using speed to outrun the bigger but often sluggish Australian

defenders, the South Koreans repeatedly breached the defense.

It almost paid off when Ji Dong Won’s shot was headed away from

an empty net by Cahill in the 18th minute. Five minutes later, Koo

took a pass in the area from Ji and scored the opening goal after a

long kick from ‘keeper Jung Sung-ryong.

Schwarzer blamed himself for the goal.

”It was a long a ball and I called for it,” Schwarzer said.

”The ball didn’t carry through. Unfortunately, once I called for

it, the guys let the ball go and it fell to South Korea and they

scored. That was disappointing but as a team we stuck together and

dug deep.”

Led by Park and Ki Sung-yueng, South Korea kept pressuring and

combining well with pretty one-touch passes. The Australians,

meanwhile, had the better chances on goal in the last 10 minutes.

Again, it was Cahill who almost scored, only to have defender Kim

Jin-Hyeon flick the ball away at the last moment.

Australia’s momentum carried into the second half, dominating

possession. The Australians’ physical style began taking a toll on

their opponents, whose pace slowed significantly. Australia had

several shots that flew over before Neil dropped a lovely ball into

a crowd of Australians in front of the net.

Jung came for the ball but missed, leaving the net open for

Jedinak’s equalizing header. Australia kept the pressure with drive

from Kewell saved by Jung in the 84th minute and then Korean

responding on the counterattack and Ki just failing to get a shot

past Schwarzer.

Australia’s players were happy to have fought back from a goal

down but felt they should have come away with a victory.

”We have to be realistic. Tonight was a massive game and was

tough and a point is a good point. Korea is favorite to win this

competition,” Cahill said. ”But we didn’t finish our chances. I

think we had the chance of winning if I had finished, maybe Harry

finishes, any of us finishes.”

Neill felt the team showed it had a ”hunger” to go far into

the tournament.

”We are not the aging, old team struggling for movement. We are

here and we are (set) to go a long way in tournament,” he said.

”There is definitely a hunger, good harmony, something special

happening. The boys are starting to feel this could be a special

campaign.”

Lineups:

Australia: Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill, David Carney, Tim

Cahill, Jason Culina (Carl Valeri, 46) Sasa Ognenovski, Brett

Emerton, Luke Wilkshire (Jade North, 68), Harry Kewell, Brett

Holman, Mile Jedinak.

South Korea: Jung Sung-ryong; Hwang Jae-won, Lee Yong-rae, Park

Ji-sung, Ji Dong-won (Yoo Byung-soo, 67), Lee Young-pyo, Koo

Ja-cheoul (Yeom Ki-hun, 67), Lee Jung-soo, Ki Sung-yueng, Lee

Chung-young, Cha Du-ri.