The UAE were still left searching for a first victory after going down to South Korea 1-0 in a crunch World Cup qualifying game on Thursday.
Hwang Hee-chan’s first-half penalty settled the issue at the Goyang Stadium.
A dominant South Korea strengthened their position in the top two of Group A in the AFC Asian Qualifiers. South Korea were in complete control in the opening 45 minutes and took a deserved lead 10 minutes before the interval through Hwang Hee-chan’s penalty in a half that saw the hosts twice strike the post.
The home side continued to push forward in the second half but a combination of the woodwork and near misses kept the score at 1-0 as, in the end, South Korea maintained their unbeaten at home and left the UAE still searching for their first win in Group A.
Paulo Bento’s side started on the front foot, with Lee Jae-sung heading Son Heung-min’s corner from the left into the side netting and Hwang In-beom firing wide from distance in the opening stages.
The Taeguk Warriors came even closer as the 15-minute mark approached when Cho Gue-sung, in for the injured Hwang Ui-jo up front, hit the inside of the post with a sweetly struck shot from 25 yards.
Son was next to threaten, latching on to a perfectly weighted ball from Hwang In-beom and rounding goalkeeper Ali Khaseif, but the Tottenham Hotspur forward pushed the ball just too wide and could only hit the side netting from a narrow angle.
The breakthrough finally came in the 36th minute when, after Hwang In-beom was upended by Ali Salmin in the box, Hwang Hee-chan coolly slotted into the bottom left corner to give the home side a thoroughly deserved lead.
The crowd almost witnessed a Son wonder-goal as half-time approached when he surged forward from inside his own half all the way into the Emirati penalty area, only to be denied a goal to remember when his low effort hit the woodwork, before Khaseif thwarted the Korea Republic captain from close range just a minute later.
South Korea continued in the ascendency after the restart but failed to add to their lead, and The Whites finally had their first attempt on goal on the hour.
Emirati captain Ismail Matar fed Caio Canedo down the left and he laid the ball off for Tahnoon Al Zaabi, whose left-footed effort from the edge of the area was well pushed wide by goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu.
Cho then came close to doubling the East Asians’ advantage midway through the half but the striker headed Son’s corner from the left wide from just a few yards out.
Incredibly, South Korea hit the woodwork for a third time with a little over 15 minutes to play when, after a lovely flowing move involving Cho and Hwang In-beom, Son headed Kim Jin-su’s cross from the left onto the top of the bar.
Son’s quest for a third goal in three games was destined to fail as he struck over from just inside the box and then was denied by Khaseif in quick succession in the final 10 minutes, but ultimately the Koreans picked up the three points that mattered most to them.
South Korea will next travel to Doha to take on Iraq on Tuesday as they continue their mission to reach a 10th successive Fifa World Cup, while the UAE face Lebanon in Sidon in a crucial fixture in the race for third place. — With inputs from AFC website
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