The Azkals made South Korea work tirelessly to secure the narrowest of wins in their AFC Asian Cup debut match.
Although they were expected to cruise past the tournament newcomers in Group C today (Monday, January 7), Korea struggled to break the will of their opponents and had a few nervy moments of their own with Azkals striker Javier Patino posing a real threat up front.
However, Hwang Ui-jo scored the game’s sole goal in the 67th minute to send his side level on points with China at the top of the group.
Although, the Koreans did not take long to dominate the game — particularly in terms of possession — the Azkals’ defence restricted them to half-chances and long shots.
Indeed, it was Philippines who had the best chance of the first half when Daisuke Sato won possession on the halfway line and battled forwards before passing the ball to Patino, whose scorching volley very nearly got the better of Korean keeper Kim Seung-gyu.
Patino had another chance nine minutes into the second half when he forced his way free down the left and fed the ball to John-Patrick Strauss, before following up and receiving possession back inside the area. Sadly, he was unable to get a strong connection and Kim made a comfortable save.
However, seven minutes after the one-hour mark, Korea found a breakthrough when Hwang Hee-chan found Lee Chung-yong’s pass and his cut-back was followed through by Hwang Ui-jo, who found the roof of the net.
Hwang had another chance in the 67th minute with Hee-chan charged into the box before laying the ball off to Ui-jo. It was thanks to a brilliant point-blank save from Michael Falkesgaard that the scoreline remained unaltered.
As the final whistle approached, Korea felt secure enough to go into coasting mode.
Despite this, the final score is one that the Azkals and their growing army of supporters can be proud of, particularly as the squad was missing several key players.
Their next fixture in the team’s debut tournament run will be against the People’s Republic of China on Friday (January 11).