Wins for South Korea, Uzbekistan and China in 2015 Asian Cup
South Korea put a disappointing 2014 World Cup behind them to begin their 2015 AFC Asian Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Oman in Canberra on Saturday through Cho Yong-cheol's goal in first-half stoppage time.
Coach Uli Stielike said he hoped the hard fought victory would give his team a boost as they go in search of their first Asian Cup title in 55 years.
South Korea joined Australia on three points in Group A, although the Socceroos are top on goal difference after a 4-1 win over Kuwait on Friday.
On a wet afternoon in the Australian capital city, South Korea's Bayer Leverkusen forward Son Heung-min hit the top of the crossbar with a looping shot after seven minutes.
The only goal of the match came when former English Premier League goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi could only parry a Koo Ja-cheol shot. Cho poked the rebound home in first half injury-time.
Koo went close to extending South Korea's lead just before the hour but his fierce header was tipped over the bar by Al Habsi.
South Korea dominated the second half when Lee Chung-yong and Son went close to extending their team's lead. The winning side almost paid the price for failing to finish off the game after 75 minutes, but Oman striker Abdulaziz Al Maqbali miskicked when free at the back post.
In heavy rain in Sydney, Igor Sergeev headed in the only goal during a rain-sodden second half to give 2011 semfinalists Uzbekistan a 1-0 win over North Korea in the tournament's opening Group B match.
The Uzbeks were the dominant side, and almost opened the scoring after 17 minutes after a tidy move started by Server Djeparov as Timur Kapadze's header hit the post.
North Korea keeper Ri Myong-guk did well to keep out Vitaly Denisov's skidding, long-range strike in the 52nd minute. But 10 minutes later he was powerless when Sergeev nodded home the winner from Djeparov's pinpoint cross from the left. The North Koreans had a chance to equalize in the dying minutes but Ignatiy Nesterov produced a superb reflex save to ensure Uzbekistan emerged victorious in their sixth Asian Cup appearance.
In Brisbane, 2004 finalists China opened their 2015 campaign with a 1-0 victory over three time champions Saudi Arabia, thanks to a deflected goal by midfielder Yu Hai nine minutes from full-time.
Yu's free-kick took a wicked deflection off the Saudi wall and past goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah.
Earlier, Naif Hazazi striker missed a second half penalty that would have given Saudi Arabia the lead after a period of sustained pressure.
Hazazi was brought down in the box after 60 minutes by Chinese defender Ren Hang, who received a yellow card. But his tame spot kick was saved by goalkeeper Dalei Wang, who turned 26 on Saturday.
Hazazi started up-front in the place of Saudi Arabia's AFC Player of the Year, Nasser Al-Shamrani, who pulled out of the tournament on Friday with an abdominal injury.
The Chinese, who failed to get past the first round in the 2007 and 2011 tournaments, will play Uzbekistan in Brisbane on Jan. 14 while Saudi Arabia face North Korea on the same day in Melbourne.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report