An own goal by Osama Hawsawi and a late effort from Lee Jeong-hyeop earned Korea Republic a 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia at Parramatta Stadium on Sunday evening as both nations completed their final preparations for the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015.
Veteran defender Hawsawi nudged Son Heung-min’s in-swinging free kick over his own goal line to give the Koreans the lead in a slightlydisjointed affair before substitute Lee Jeong-hyeop scored from close range to seal the win.
Korea have been drawn in Group A of the continental championship and kick off their campaign to win a first AFC Asian Cup titlesince 1960 when they take on Oman on January 10.
Coach Uli Stielike picked a starting line-up featuring both youth and experience, with German-based duo Koo Ja-cheol and Son playing from the start, while newly appointed Saudi coach Cosmin Olaroiu fine-tuned his team ahead of their opener against China, also on January 10.
After an uncertain opening, Salem Al Dawsari almost capitalised on Korea’s slack defending just nine minutes into the game when he unexpectedly found himself in possession on the edge of the penalty area, only to curl his effort wide of the top corner of Kim Jin-hyeon’s goal.
Son looked the most likely of the Koreans to find a way past the Saudi backline and the Bayer Leverkusen man hit the woodwork just eightminutes later with an acrobatic effort that beat Waleed Abdullah. Seven minutes later, Son was on target again, only this time Abdullah had little trouble collecting his low effort.
Kim Jin-hyeon was called into emergency action just before the half hour mark when he dropped brilliantly to his right to push Nawaf Al Abid’s acrobatic effort around the post and keep the scores level.
Both sides made a host of changes at the start of the second half, and it was one of Korea’s replacement players – Nam Tae-hee – who should have given his team the lead, only to send his header wide of goal when under no pressure.
Korea, though, took the lead just after the game entered the final quarter when Son’s free kick from the left swung towards goal and, under pressure, Hawsawi could only bundle the ball into his own goal.
Reigning AFC Player of the Year Nassir Al Shamrani almost levelled the game up with six minutes to go, but his right foot effort from inside the area was well saved by substitute goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu.
And with the game entering three minutes of stoppage time, Lee Jeong-hyeop stabbed the ball over the line from close range after Kim Chang-soo’s lay off to secure victory for Stielike’s side.