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.”


Blue Point focused on Al-Quoz glory after magical run at Meydan

Updated 15 February 2019
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Blue Point focused on Al-Quoz glory after magical run at Meydan

  • Star sprinter proves class with easy G2 win in Dubai.
  • Charlie Appleby hopeful over Al-Quoz Sprint chances.

LONDON: Star sprinter Blue Point is on course for glory in the much-anticipated Al-Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night. That is the message from Godolphin after a brilliant victory in the G2 Meydan Sprint on Thursday.
The Dubai-based stable have long held high hopes for the Shamardal horse and the five-year-old’s win confirmed that they have something special on their hands.
Blue Point took up the running from Faatinah with more than two furlongs to race and readily opened up daylight over his rivals approaching the final furlong, quickly going clear.
For Charlie Appleby the performance only went to prove that Blue Point has it in him to steal the show on Dubai World Cup night in March.
“If he brought his class, he was going to be good enough to win, but we had left a bit on him because the G1 Al-Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night is our target,” the Godolphin trainer said.
“No disrespect to this race, and we were pleased to win it, but it was the right stepping stone onto the Al-Quoz.
“I was pleased to see him in the paddock, more so than a couple of days ago when it looked like he had a couple of pounds left on him. He had tightened up a bit.
“We were always confident that he was going to come forward for whatever he did. He is a five-year-old now and a professional — getting better with racing. He came alive two furlongs down and it was only a matter of William asking him to pick up and do a bit of work.”
The “Boys in Blue” always place a lot of focus on the World Cup night and a second win in the Al-Quoz sprint — Appleby saddled Jungle Cat to victory last year — is one of the aims for the famous race meeting in March.
“I am very pleased and, all being well, he should step forward for it and all roads will now lead to the Al-Quoz Sprint,” Appleby said.
“I feel that he is not overly exposed as a sprinter — we looked after him as a two-year-old and a three-year-old, while he wasn’t over-raced last year so he is entitled still to be learning.”
Added to the optimism surrounding Blue Point is the fact that William Buick feels he is coming to form at just the right time.
“It was a nice comeback opportunity for Blue Point and he did it very comfortably, doing everything right. It was lovely to see him come back like that,” the jockey said. “He has probably matured a little bit compared to 12 months ago and the biggest difference this year is that he is a G1 winner this time. He had proved himself and feels like a very confident horse — there is no question that he is a top sprinter.”
Meanwhile, Godolphin’s star G1 performers Hartnell, Best Of Days and Alizee have been entered for the world’s richest mile race, the $5 million All-Star Mile to be run at Flemington on March 16.
Head trainer James Cummings confirmed that all three horses will seek a place in the famous race.
“We think it’s great the way in which it really engages with not only the racing audience, but potentially reaching out beyond just that and bringing in a wider audience from not only Australia, but from around the world,” Cummings said. “We’re really excited to be a part of the richest mile race anywhere in the world.”