DOHA - South Korea began their campaign
for a first Asian Cup title in 51 years with a polished passing
performance to beat Bahrain 2-1 in Qatar on Monday.
The Koreans dominated the match for 85 minutes and led
comfortably thanks to two goals from Jeju United's 21-year-old
midfielder Koo Ja-cheol which were both aided by mistakes from
the Gulf side.
Faouzi Aaish then made it a needlessly nervy last five
minutes for the Koreans after he converted a penalty following
defender Kwak Tae-hwi's dismissal for bringing down substitute
Abdulla Al Dakeel in the area.
However, the twice Asian champions resisted the pressure to
record a fully-deserved win in front of the watching AFC
president Mohamed Bin Hammam at a chilly and two thirds empty Al
"We could have been better if we avoided the situation of
the penalty kick but we do have three players to cover the
position (for the next match)," Korean coach Cho Kwang-rae told
The 6,669 that did attend saw the Red Devils take the lead
five minutes before halftime when Koo's right-footed strike near
the penalty spot was deflected past Bahrain goalkeeper Mahmood
Mansoor by his team mate Abdulla Marzooqi.
The second came seven minutes after the break when Mansoor
could only parry Cha Du-ri's dipping 20-metre drive back in
front of his goal to allow Koo a simple tap in from inside the
Bahrain offered little in attacking threat throughout the
match with their coach Salman Shareedah providing the most
The recently appointed bespectacled coach prowled the edge
of his technical area as if trapped like a mime artist,
demonstrating various frustrated poses in his grey suit.
He was given hope, however, when central defender Kwak fell
into Al Dakeel with the referee producing a straight red card
and awarding the penalty.
"You must remember that I have only spent two months with
the team," a more subdued Shareedah told reporters. "We will try
to raise the moral for the next two matches."
The Koreans have qualified for seven successive World Cups
but have struggled in the 16-team regional competition after
winning the first two editions in 1956 and 60.
Their fans will hope that wait is coming to an end after a
confident display against a side who narrowly missed out on
qualifying for the last two World Cup finals in playoffs and had
been expected to cause them problems.
The opening victory puts the Koreans on three points in
Group C, level with Australia who earlier thrashed lowly India
4-0 at the Al Sadd Stadium.
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