South Korea defeat Iraq 2-0 in semifinal to reach Asian Cup final
Two times former winners South Korea have advanced to the final of the Asian Cup for the first time in nearly 30 years, by defeating Iraq 2-0 in the first semifinal in Sydney on Monday night. The Taeguk Warriors last reached the final in the 1988 tournament in Qatar when they lost to Saudi Arabia.
Lee Jeong-hyeop and Kim Young-gwon scored in the 20th and 50th minutes for Uli Stielike's men who once again kept a clean slate and are yet to concede a goal in the tournament.
South Korea came out all guns blazing and had the lion's share of possession and were duly rewarded in the 20th minute when 23-year-old striker Lee Jeong-hyeop outjumped the Iraqi defence and headed past a hapless Jalal Hassan in goal to give the two-time winners a deserved lead.
Iraq, led by veteran captain Younus Mahmood, were ineffective in the first half. The 2007 champions rarely troubled the South Korean defence and had only two shots on target.
South Korea had a few minor worries in the first half with captain and Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung-yeung picking up a yellow card in the seventh minute. Fellow midfielder Park Joo-hoo was also booked in the 40th minute.
1956 and 1960 winners South Korea continued to dominate Iraq in the second half and defender Kim Young-gwon went on to double the Taeguk Warriors' lead in the 50th minute.
Six minutes later, defender Kim Jin-su became the third South Korean player to get a yellow card.
Iraq had far more possession in the second period than in the first but still were unable to test South Korea goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon.
Iraq's 2007 hero Younus Mahmood was quiet throughout the game but came to life in the 89th minute with an audacious backheel in the South Korean penalty box but his effort was repelled by a resolute South Korean defence.
But it was too little too late for Iraq, who had defeated neighbours Iran in sudden death in their high-profile quarterfinal on Friday.
South Korea will take on either UAE or host nation Australia who are scheduled to play the second semifinal on Tuesday evening in Newcastle. The final will take place on Jan. 31 at the Stadium Australia in Sydney.