Son Heung-min tells South Korea to shape up or go home after nervy win over Bahrain

Son is only too aware that his side need to find their form if they are to live up to favorites tag. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2019
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Son Heung-min tells South Korea to shape up or go home after nervy win over Bahrain

  • Spurs star unhappy with South Korea performance as they struggle to beat part-timers Bahrain.
  • South Korea now face Qatar in tough last-eight clash.

DUBAI: Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min told his South Korea team-mates “we’re better than that” after they needed extra time to scrape past Bahrain’s part-timers 2-1 in the Asian Cup last 16 .
Kim Jin-su’s diving header at the end of the first extra period was all that separated South Korea’s well-paid professionals and a Bahrain squad who mostly have day-jobs.
Paulo Bento’s South Korea, runners-up in 2015 and one of the favorites for the title, survived to reach the last eight, where they will face Qatar.
“It was a tough game. We played against a team who packed the defense and played counter-attack, so it’s not easy,” said Son.
“It’s all about attitude as well, and I’m a bit unhappy with our performance. I think we’re better than that.”
Son took a boot to the head as he weathered some robust challenges in a first half which South Korea dominated with 73 percent of possession.
The Koreans took a while to settle before Son started to make his presence felt with some typically direct running which caused panic in the Bahrain defense.
South Korea broke the deadlock two minutes from half-time, when Son picked out Lee Yong whose cross was parried by goalkeeper Sayed Shubbar Alawi to Hwang Hee-chan, who snaffled the easy chance.
They threatened to run riot after the break before Bahrain hit back and it took a magnificent flying stop from Kim Seung-gyu to keep out Jamal Rashed’s thumping effort.
And against all expectations, Bahrain were suddenly level with 13 minutes remaining when Mohamed Al Romaihi smashed in the rebound from Mahdi Al-Humaidan’s shot.
The goal stunned South Korea, who had only conceded at one Asian Cup game since 2011 — the 2015 final, which they lost 2-1 to Australia after extra time.
Hwang Ui-jo nearly snatched the victory in injury time, when a defensive mix-up put him one-on-one with Alawi, but he spooned his shot wide to set up the additional 30 minutes of play.
Bahrain goalkeeper Alawi withdrew with an apparent hamstring injury but one of the first tasks for his replacement, Abdulkarim Fardan, was to pick the ball out of the net.
Substitute Kim Jin-su found time and space to steady himself and drive home his header from Lee Yong’s cross, a goal which the team celebrated by holding up the 16 shirt of injured Newcastle United midfielder Ki Sung-yueng.
Ju Se-jong also rammed a shot against the post in a positive finish for the Koreans, and while they celebrated there were tears from the Bahrainis at the final whistle.
Bahrain’s coach Miroslav Soukup was full of praise for his hard-working players, who reached the knockout stage for just the second time in their history.
“Eighty percent of my team are amateurs. They go to work in the morning and in the afternoon they’re training,” said the Czech.
“Then they fly to the Asian Cup and play against the top team, against players who play in the top leagues in the world.
“I want to say thank you very much to my team for the full tournament, because they’ve done a great job... this team has a good future.”


Le Fondre pounces to earn Sydney vital point

Updated 23 April 2019
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Le Fondre pounces to earn Sydney vital point

  • The stalemate leaves all to play for in Group H

SHANGHAI: “Fantastic” journeyman forward Adam le Fondre pounced to earn Sydney FC a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Shanghai SIPG in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.

The stalemate leaves all to play for in Group H with two rounds of matches to play after table-toppers Ulsan were held 2-2 at Kawasaki Frontale.

Chinese champions SIPG, for whom Brazilian forward Hulk was a constant menace, came back from a goal down to lead 2-1.

But the 32-year-old le Fondre displayed his enduring predatory instincts to grab a classy leveller on 62 minutes.

The striker, who is at his ninth club and has had spells at Cardiff City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, popped up with a bullet header on the six-yard box.

“He’s a fantastic person, first and foremost, and a fantastic player,” said Sydney coach Steve Corica, who knows his team will almost certainly need to win their last two matches to progress to the knock-out rounds.

Corica, formerly a player at Leicester City and Wolves, was full of praise for the evergreen le Fondre, who moved to Australia from Bolton in August 2018.

“He’s played in England, played in the Premier League, scored goals wherever he’s gone,” said Corica.

“He works extremely hard for our team and in the A-League has scored 16 goals (this season), and he’s scored in the Champions League.

“He’s been fantastic for our club and the way he’s played this year.”

Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale gave themselves a qualification lifeline as they fought back from a goal down at home with nine minutes remaining to draw 2-2 with South Korea’s Ulsan.

Leandro Damiao fired home an 81st-minute equalizer to revive Frontale’s fading hopes of progress to the last 16.

Star striker Yu Kobayashi opened the scoring for the home side, but the Koreans struck back twice before half-time through Park Yang-woo and Junior Negrao.

Kawasaki piled on the pressure toward the end with Kobayashi guilty of the miss of the match in the second minute of stoppage time when he found himself unmarked with the goal gaping, but somehow hit the post.

Ulsan top a tight Group H on eight points, with SIPG on five, Kawasaki on four and Sydney still just about alive on three points.

Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by an under-strength Melbourne Victory.

The former two-time Asian champions dropped to second in Group F after Huang Bowen’s 24th-minute strike was canceled out by Jai Ingham’s goal two minutes later. Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima took advantage of the Chinese giants’ slip-up to go top on nine points with a 1-0 win at Daegu FC in South Korea, courtesy of Hayato Araki’s 34th-minute winner. With Daegu just a point behind Guangzhou, Cannavaro’s men now face a pivotal clash in Hiroshima in two weeks before the group finale against the Koreans on May 22.