South Korea beat Bahrain 3-1 in their first match of the Asian Cup on Saturday and earned the all-important three points on the back of a few moments of stellar performances with a worryingly lukewarm performance.
The Taeguk Warriors seemed to struggle from the start in what should have been a very one-sided affair on paper, proving unable to fully adapt to Bahrain’s relentless efforts to slow the game and referee Manning’s trigger-happy approach to Hawking.
With Wolverhampton Wanderers Hwang Hee-chan out injured, Korea began with Cho Kyu-sung coming to the front and Park Yong-woo joining Son Heung-min, Lee Kang-in, Lee Jae-sung and Hwang In-beom from the midfield.
It was a painfully slow start for the Taeguk Warriors, a big attempt to break down in front of Bahrain’s stubborn defense and a rather heavy man-mark against Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in.
Korea eventually broke through, however, and Red Star Belgrade’s Hwang In-beom put the Taeguk Warriors on the scoresheet in the 37th minute, and was helped by Mainz’s Lee Jae-sung with a long ball across the box. The frequently overlooked couple remained as solid as ever in the middle of Korea’s defense, re-emerging in a game that some more lauded players struggled to produce.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in did not struggle. The young midfielder proved his strength to be reckoned with early in the second half by scoring two goals in 12 minutes.
Lee’s first goal came five minutes after Bahrain tied it at 1-1. After receiving the ball from yards out of the box, Lee took a one-touch to position himself and then fired a low shot between two defenders to make it 2-1.
Lee came back after 12 minutes and hit almost the same spot – this time from the left side of the box – to take the score 3-1.