Asia Cup: South Korea reach final after 2-0 victory over Iraq in Sydney
Last Updated: 26/01/15 12:46pm
South Korea moved a step closer to ending their 55-year wait for Asian Cup glory when they grabbed a goal in each half to beat Iraq 2-0 on Monday to book their place in the final.
Lee Jeong-hyeop gave South Korea the lead with a 20th minute header and defender Kim Young-gwon lashed the second into the net five minutes after the break as the Taegeuk Warriors reached the final for the first time since 1988.
Iraq played with plenty of passion but were unable to become the first team to breach the resolute South Korean defence in the tournament.
Their hopes of another fairytale run to the title, to match their 2007 triumph, were washed away in the Sydney rain as two-time champions South Korea booked their place in Saturday’s final.
South Korea had looked the most likely to score in a cagey opening to the match with Son Heung-min, the two-goal hero of South Korea's quarter-final victory over Uzbekistan, drawing a fingertip save out of Jalal Hassan with a long-range effort.
A minute later and the Koreans were in front, Kim Jin-su curling a free kick into the box and Lee rising above the Iraqi defence to head down and into the net.
Iraq skipper Younis Mahmoud was making his presence felt up front but South Korea are not a side to be bullied at the back and he was more often than not battling alone in the first half.
The Korean fans had more to shout about but Iraq gave their supporters a lift with a flurry of attacks just before the break when winger Amjed Kalaf's raking drive forced Kim Jin-hyeon to get down low to push the ball across his goal.
The South Korea goalkeeper gave Iraq the sniff of an equaliser when he rashly charged out of his area three minutes after the break but another two minutes on and his team's lead had been doubled.
The ball bounced around the area from a Son corner before Lee chested the ball down for Kim to hit it first time from the edge of the box past the dive of Hassan.
Iraq were forced to press forward but clear-cut opportunities were few and far between for them while Hassan had to be at his sharpest to deny long-range efforts from South Korean skipper Ki Sung-yueng and Son inside a minute.
Kalaf continued to cause problems with his pace but there always seemed to be a South Korea foot or head to cut out the final ball and prevent a scoring chance.
South Korea held on to set up a final against Australia or United Arab Emirates in Sydney on Saturday.