DOHA (AFP) - South Korea marched into the Asian Cup quarter-finals with a 4-1 defeat of an obdurate India in their final Group C game at a sodden Al Gharafa Stadium on Tuesday.
Beneath pouring rain, the Koreans established a quick-fire 2-0 lead through Ji Dong-Won and Koo Ja-Cheol before striker Sunil Chhetri brought India backinto the game from the penalty spot.
Ji swiftly restored the Taeguk Warriors' two-goal advantage but minnows India's stout defending meant the Koreans had to wait until the 81st minute for
Son Heung-Min to net their fourth goal.
The result means South Korea finish second in Group C behind Australia on goal difference, after the Socceroos beat Bahrain 1-0, and will contest a
semi-final spot with hitherto unbeaten Group D winners Iran.
With India having lost 4-0 to Australia and 5-2 to Bahrain in their previous two games, pre-match speculation had focused on how many goals South
Korea might score and they took less than six minutes to break the deadlock.
Bolton Wanderers winger Lee Chung-Yong spiked a cross into the box from the right that goalkeeper Subrata Paul could only punch into the air and Ji climbed to head home his first goal of the tournament.
Three minutes later it was 2-0, Ji nodding the ball down into Koo's path and, with the Indian defence static, the Jeju United midfielder deftly rounded
Paul before sliding the ball into the empty net.
India's fans may have feared the worst but in the 11th minute they were handed an unlikely lifeline when Kwak Tae-Hwi was penalised for clambering over Chhetri as they challenged for a high ball inside the Korean box.
Chhetri rolled the spot-kick into the bottom-right corner to the sound of jubilant screams from the vocal gathering of Indian fans inside the arena.
Korea promptly resumed their assault of the Indian goal, however, with Paul saving from Koo's header and Kwak seeing an attempt cleared off the line by
Koo was the architect of Korea's third goal, rolling a clever pass between two defenders for Ji, who drew the goalkeeper from his line before lifting the
ball over him and into the net.
Ji then saw three efforts blocked on the goal-line in rapid succession after Paul spilled the ball at a corner.
Lee Chung-Yong, Ji and Kwak all worked Paul prior to half-time and the Bolton man also side-footed wide from a good position as the one-way traffic
continued in the second period.
Substitute Son struck the post from close-range, while Kwak was again denied by a defender on the line and Ji lofted the ball over the bar after Paul
had vacated his goal.
Football: Iran coach wanted to avoid South Korea
DOHA (AFP) - An Asian Cup quarter-final match-up with South Korea is something Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi wanted to avoid as the country holds a special place in his heart.
"I love the Korean people. I love the Korean players," he said Tuesday, hours before South Korea beat India 4-1 in their final group game to book a last-eight date on Saturday with Iran, the Group A topdogs.
"Personally I would not like to end their tournament too soon. I prefer to play them later," Ghotbi said when asked to choose between Australia and South Korea as their quarter-final opponents.
"South Korea has, of course, great expatriates working with them," he said in apparent reference to Europe-based stars led by Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung.
South Korea finished second to Australia in Group C on goal difference after each side won two matches and drew one.
Ghotbi, who grew up in the United States, built his global coaching career in South Korea, starting as a match analyst for Dutchman Guus Hiddink when he guided the Taeguk Warriors to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals.
He also served as an assistant coach at South Korean club Samsung Bluewings as well as the Korean national team under other Dutchmen Dick Advocaat and Pim Verbeek until 2007.
Ghotbi has been in charge of Iran since early 2009 and will guide J-League Shimizu S-Pulse after the Asian Cup.