Son Heung-Min on course for military exemption as South Korea edges Uzbekistan
Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-Min kept alive his chances of gaining an exemption from mandatory military service after South Korea secured a dramatic 4-3 win over 10-man Uzbekistan to reach the Asian Games semifinals on Monday.
After Hwang Ui-Jo completed his hat trick in the 75th minute to take the match into extra time, Hwang Hee-Chan secured the win in the dying minutes by coolly finding the back of the net with his spot kick.
With so much riding on that penalty, Son was unable to watch the unfolding drama.
Son, who is missing the start of Tottenham's Premier League campaign to be in Jakarta as one of the over-aged players in the under-23 competition, needs South Korea to win the gold medal to gain exemption from military service.
Korean law states that every able-bodied man must report for national service for 21 months before their 28th birthday. At 26, Son is fast running out of time to gain the exemption offered to all Olympic medallists or Asian Games champions.
South Korea's football team won gold at the 2014 Asian Games, but his former club Bayer Leverkusen refused to release him for that tournament.
On Monday, things started well for the Koreans, with Hwang Ui-Jo putting his team ahead in the fifth minute.
After Uzbekistan's Jaloliddin Masharipov swept in an equaliser in the 17th minute, Hwang Ui-Jo scored his second goal to give South Korea a 2-1 lead at half-time.
However, the tie turned during three frantic second half minutes when a strike from Ikromjon Alibaev and a deflected own goal off South Korean defender Hwang Hyun-Soo gave Uzbekistan a 3-2 lead in the 56th minute.
The lethal Hwang Ui-Jo then latched on to a pass from Son to fire in his third goal to take the game into extra-time.
As both sets of players tired and tempers boiled-over, Alibaev was sent off in the second half of extra time after pushing one of the Koreans.
But after Hwang Ui-Jo was hauled down by defender Rustamjon Ashurmatov in the 118th minute, substitute Hwang Hee-Chan kept a cool head to convert the penalty that secured the win.