The Korea Herald


Son Heung-min's late free kick sends S. Korea into semifinals

By Yonhap

Published : Feb. 3, 2024 - 09:11

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Captain Son Heung-min embraces Hwang Hee-chan after defeating Australia 2-1 at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Friday. (Yonhap) Captain Son Heung-min embraces Hwang Hee-chan after defeating Australia 2-1 at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Friday. (Yonhap)

Captain Son Heung-min scored a free kick goal in extra time as South Korea defeated 10-man Australia 2-1 to reach the semifinals of the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup in Qatar on Friday.

Hwang Hee-chan scored a last-gasp equalizer on a penalty drawn by Son at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, south of Doha, before Son himself got in on the scoring act in the 104th minute.

South Korea moved within two wins of ending their 64-year title drought at the top continental tournament. They will now face Jordan in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, west of the Qatari capital, or midnight Wednesday in South Korea time.

South Korea and Jordan played to a 2-2 draw in their Group E match on Jan. 20, with Jordan's Yazan Al-Arab getting charged with a stoppage-time own goal.

The victory provided a measure of redemption for South Korea. In the 2015 Asian Cup final in Australia, the Socceroos defeated the Taegeuk Warriors 2-1 in extra time. Son scored late in regulation, only to see Australia break the tie during extra time.

Coached by Jurgen Klinsmann, South Korea are trying to win their first AFC title since 1960.

South Korea have now played 120 minutes in consecutive matches, after needing the 30-minute extra session and the penalty shootout to knock off Saudi Arabia in the round of 16.

"Obviously, it was another drama. We're extremely happy and thrilled to go through," Klinsmann said. "It was a hard fight with Australia. We expected it. But to go 120 minutes again, I'm proud of this team and their spirit."

Graham Arnold, Klinsmann's counterpart, said the loss was "quite devastating, quite emotional" for his side.

"We played well for the first 90 minutes until we conceded the penalty," Arnold said. "We were up 1-0. We had chances for 2-0, 3-0, and if you don't take your chances, you get punished."

South Korea enjoyed an early edge in ball possession, but then Australia pushed back with a couple of close chances by Connor Metcalfe.

In the 17th minute, the midfielder rolled his left-footed shot just wide right of the target. Two minutes later, a rebound off a shot by Craig Goodwin bounced right back to Metcalfe, who could only get off a mediocre right-footed shot.

South Korea had a goal disallowed on an offside ruling in the 31st minute, after completing a pretty tic-tac-toe play. Lee Kang-in threaded a pass to Seol Young-woo on the left side of the box, and Seol promptly crossed for Hwang Hee-chan, who one-timed the feed for what could have been South Korea's opening goal. The Semi-Automated Offside Technology, however, determined Seol was slightly offside before he received the initial pass.

Australia struck first with a goal that counted in the 42nd minute.

Hwang In-beom turned the ball over just outside his own box and sent South Korean defenders scrambling. The ball eventually found its way to Nathaniel Atkinson on the right side, and he crossed for the wide-open Craig Goodwin, who scored with a left-footed volley.

Australia had a 6-0 advantage in shot attempts in the first half.

South Korea had their first shot on target four minutes after the restart, though it was only a weak effort by Lee Kang-in from close range in the 49th minute.

Martin Boyle took two cracks at doubling Australia's lead in the 53rd minute, but goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo saved the day by stopping Boyle's header and then a volley off his own rebound.

South Korea spent the next 20 or so minutes in the Australian zone, though their persistent push didn't result in the equalizer.

Mitch Duke squandered a couple of opportunities to put the game out of South Korea's reach. He got a header off a Lewis Miller throw-in in the 74th minute, but Jo was there to keep the ball out of the net.

In a counterattack opportunity some 10 minutes later, Duke met a Jordan Bos cross with a diving header but sent the ball wide right.

Australia would come to rue those close calls, when South Korea pulled off stoppage-time magic.

Four minutes into the added time, Son drove hard into the box and was brought down by Miller for the penalty. Hwang Hee-chan stepped up and beat goalkeeper Mathew Ryan to the top left corner for the 1-1 tie.

Then a dozen minutes into the extra session, Hwang drew a foul just outside the left side of the box. This time, it was Son taking the kick, and the skipper curled a picture-perfect shot into the top left corner to put his side ahead 2-1.

Things went from bad to worse for Australia in late moments of the first extra period, when Aiden O'Neill was shown a straight red card for a hard tackle on Hwang's ankle.

South Korea threatened to add to their lead over the final 15 minutes of extra time before securing the narrow victory.

On a down note for South Korea, Bayern Munich center back Kim Min-jae picked up his second yellow card of the tournament just before Hwang's equalizer, and will not be eligible against Jordan in the semifinals. (Yonhap)