DOHA: Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in upstaged Son Heung-min with two goals as South Korea began their bid for a first Asian Cup since 1960 with a 3-1 win over Bahrain on Monday.
Lee has impressed at PSG since joining from Mallorca last summer and he got Jurgen Klinsmann’s side out of trouble in their Group ‘E’ opener against a spirited Bahrain who equalised early in the second half at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.
The 22-year-old attacking midfielder showcased his sublime skills with a second-half brace after team-mate Hwang In-beom had opened the scoring before the break.
Tottenham Hotspur talisman Son was guilty of two glaring misses and suffered the indignity of a late yellow card for diving in the Bahrain box.
A stop-start encounter had plenty of fouls in the first half and although there was no malice in the challenges, South Korea had three players on yellow cards in the first half hour — including centre back Kim Min-Jae.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy playing Bahrain, it turned out to be scrappy with a number of yellow cards today,” Klinsmann told reporters. “It was a tricky game and had a lot to do with the Chinese referee [Ning Ma] giving too many yellow cards early. That’s why I took off Min-Jae, because if they made a slight foul he’d get sent off.”
Hwang broke the deadlock with just over five minutes of the first half remaining, dispatching Lee Jae-sung’s low cross with a deft finish.
Bahrain came out for the second half in search of an equaliser and they got one in the 51st minute.
South Korea goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu parried the ball and Abdullah Al-Hashash was there to slam home the rebound.
Lee restored South Korea’s lead five minutes later, collecting a pass outside the box and lashing home a shot with his left foot.
He bagged his second in the 69th minute, dancing through the Bahrain defence before coolly slotting the ball home.
Later on Monday, Iraq joined Japan at the top of Group ‘D’ after beating Indonesia 3-1 in their opening match at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium.
Mohanad Ali then gave Iraq the lead in the 17th minute, but Indonesia responded in the 37th minute through Marselino Ferdinan eight minutes before the half-time break.
Jesus Casas’ side proved to be too strong, however, as Osama Rashid scored deep into first-half stoppage time before Ayman Hussein wrapped up the win in the 75th minute.
On Sunday, Palestine conceded a goal after just 64 seconds in a 4-1 loss to Iran in their Group ‘C’ opener.
Palestine’s first match of the tournament coincided with the 100th day of the Israel-Hamas war, the grim milestone adding extra significance to an occasion that went beyond football.
Palestinian flags were scattered among the crowd of nearly 28,000 at Education City Stadium, and their goal just before half-time got the biggest cheer of the night.
Despite seeing his side well beaten, Palestine’s coach Makram Daboub said: “We will regain our confidence and achieve our goal of reaching the last 16.”
Loud cries went up for the Palestinian anthem before the game and the team’s players put their arms around each other’s shoulders.
A brief moment’s silence was held before kick-off, the quiet punctuated by cries of “free Palestine”.
But Palestine were behind after little over one minute, attacker Karim Ansarifard rattling the ball into the bottom corner for an Iran team who are among the favourites in Qatar.
Iran, who are pursuing a record-equalling fourth continental crown, made it 2-0 on 12 minutes when Shojae Khalilzadeh swept home unmarked from close range following a free kick.
Iran looked like scoring every time they went forward and they made it 3-0 seven minutes before the break, Feyenoord winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh playing in Mehdi Ghayedi to side-foot into the bottom corner.
But the biggest roar of the night came right on the stroke of half-time when Tamer Seyam headed in from close range, the Palestinian pointing skyward in a muted celebration.
Iran scored a fourth soon after the break through Roma’s Sardar Azmoun.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2024