Azkals, more underdogs trouble Asian football giants
AL-AIN, United Arab Emirates – Favorites South Korea scraped past the Philippines and China needed a spectacular goalkeeping gaffe to spark their comeback against lowly Kyrgyzstan as lesser teams continued to trouble bigger sides at the Asian Cup on Monday, January 7.
A day after defending champion Australia was rocked 1-0 by Jordan, South Korea, still awaiting the arrival of star forward Son Heung-min, left it late before beating the Philippines by the same scoreline. (READ: Azkals bow to mighty Korea in Asian Cup opener)
Fellow debutants Kyrgyzstan led China 1-0 at halftime but they were left to rue a costly error by goalkeeper Pavel Matiash, whose embarrassing own goal put the Chinese on course for a 2-1 win.
After host UAE was held by Bahrain, and Syria was kept to a goalless draw by Palestine, it provided more evidence that the gap has narrowed between Asian teams.
Thailand fires coach
Separately, Thailand's Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac paid the price for yet another shock result when he was given his marching orders following Sunday's 4-1 defeat to India.
"Like all Thai football fans across the country, I am also disappointed with the result," Thailand's FA president Somyot Poompanmoung said, explaining the rapid dismissal.
"But as president of the football association, I cannot stand still with this problem."
Kyrgyzstan looked capable of pulling off an almighty upset against China when Akhlidin Israilov smashed home the opening goal just before half-time in Al Ain.
But China profited from the howler of the tournament so far when Matiash, attempting to claw a defensive header over the bar, batted it over the line instead.
A Chinese winner looked inevitable and it was Yu who completed the turnaround, rounding Matiash and scoring from a tight angle 12 minutes from time.
Piece of magic
Lippi, who is expected to leave his post at the end of the Asian Cup, said he was "enormously unhappy" at China's first half performance, but proud of their revival.
"During the first half we weren't playing well, and I thought if we keep playing like that we're going to lose the match," said the 2006 World Cup-winning coach.
"After the reaction from my players in the second half, I'm happy that we won the 3 points."
Later in Dubai, prolific goal poacher Hwang Ui-jo snatched a second-half winner as South Korea beat Sven-Goran Eriksson's Philippines, which impressed on its tournament debut.
The Koreans, looking to end 59 years of hurt after failing to win the title since 1960, soaked up considerable pressure in their opening Group C fixture before Hwang broke the deadlock after 67 minutes.
The Japan-based striker swivelled and smashed home from close range to settle his side's nerves after Newcastle midfielder Ki Sung-yueng limped off with a suspected hamstring injury.
South Korea, who will be boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son after their first two games, joined China on 3 points at the top of the group.
The Koreans, runners-up to hosts Australia 4 years ago, were indebted to goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu, who plunged to his right to deny Javier Patino in the 54th minute.
But Hwang, whose tournament-high 9 goals helped South Korea win last year's Asian Games title, came to the rescue with a piece of magic in the box and was unlucky not to add further goals as the favorites finished strongly. – Rappler.com
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