Asian Cup 2019: Not at his best, but Son Heung-min is still a threat as South Korea reach last eight

Matt Jones - Editor 22:13 22/01/2019
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Son assisted both goals in Korea's win over China, but was less influential against Bahrain.

The Taegeuk Warriors earned a battling 2-1 win over Bahrain to move into the Asian Cup quarter-finals, with Kim Jin-su the hero in extra-time.

Bahrain had defended stoutly up until the 43rd minute and to be truthful South Korea had seen little of the goal before Hwang Hee-chan swept home after good work down the right from Lee Yong.

Bahrain levelled 13 minutes from time when Mohamed Al Romaihi also profited from a rebound to make it 1-1 and send the game to an additional 30 minutes. The winner came down the right again and from a Yong delivery as Kim’s delicious diving header deservedly won it.

30-second report

South Korea have definitely been more fluid with their talisman Son Heung-min in the UAE. He missed the first two group games but was back to deliver two assists in the 2-0 win over China.

And he was at the heart of their attacks as they earned a spot in the last eight here, playing a starring role in the opening goal, spraying a delightful pass out to Yong whose delivery into the box caused chaos and yielded the opener for Hwang.

Korea stepped on the gas after the break in search of a killer second and should have done with Son pulling the strings. They were wasteful though and conceded an equaliser before Kim won it in extra-time.

Here we take a closer look at the Spurs’ star’s performance.

2201 son focus (1)

Got right – Sight of him is a fright

Son scares the life out of opponents. Before kick-off he would have been marked as the dangerman. And even when he wasn’t having his most influential game, he was still more dangerous than most.

He played three key passes (Korea made eight in total), with one sublime pass to Hwang Ui-jo almost leading to a goal. He served notice of his talent when he beat two defenders with silky skills to earn a corner, while it was his vision and pass to Yong that created the opening goal.

Got wrong – Final pass lacking

Although the Taegeuk Warriors have other fine players in their ranks bar Son, he is the one that makes them tick. He was in the thick of the action and a lot of his close control and approach play was good but he was never quite able to fashion an opening or create space for himself to have a shot on goal.

He orchestrated proceedings but his 80.7 per cent pass accuracy was lower than nine of his colleagues in red and he gave the ball away cheaply a couple of times.

Verdict 6/10

Are we guilty of expecting too much, too often, from Son? Definitely. But the reason for that is because he usually does deliver and seems to thrive on the pressure.

He wasn’t at his best here but most of the good things Korea did still went through him, and he always carried a threat. He will have more influence on games, but the good news is that with Korea still in contention, we’ll get to see plenty more of him.

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