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South Korea Defeats China to Open Title Defence

South Korea opened the EAFF-E1 Championship with a 3-0 win over China.  After a slow start in the first half that saw them take the lead into halftime courtesy of an own goal, play improved in the second half and Paulo Bento's men took all three points from the match.  KLU's Branko Belan looks back at the opening match.
(Photo Credit: The Korea Times)


A Bit of Luck to Lead at the Break

It was a tentative start from both sides as neither could muster any chances of consequence in the first quarter of an hour, save for Na Sang-ho's effort nine minutes in which was palmed away by Chinese 'keeper Han Jiaqi.  The Chinese had almost no time in the attacking third in the first half, instead opting to play a defensive bunker to quell the South Korean attacking threat.  Hwang In-beom would have a go from distance in the 21st minute, but his effort was also kept out.  He would be off target just minutes later when his volleyed effort from just inside the box went wayward on contact.  It was very much the story of Bento's side going forward in the first half as realization in the final third was generally poor.  Most of the forward play was concentrated on the left side, making each move up the pitch fairly easy to calculate.

At the most unexpected time, South Korea would be granted a stroke of luck as a long ball played into the box was played with a header by Chinese captain Zhu Chenjie, but instead of heading it out of play for a corner, the ball ended up in the back of the net.  It could be said that the luck was deserved considering how much Korea carried the play in the first half, but at the same time rather unfortunate for the Chinese, who had defended quite stoutly to that point.

FNR

A Better Second Half

South Korea started the second half much better and would double their advantage in the 54th minute when Hwang In-beom crossed to the far post from the right flank, finding Kim Jin-su, who headed the ball into the path of Kwon Chang-hoon, who converted the scoring chance from close range.  

The match seemed to settle from that point on, as China did not make many movements forward.  Several changes were introduced in the second half by Bento, with one of those changes, Pohang Steelers' Goh Young-joon registering an assist on his international debut, playing an inch-perfect through ball for Cho Gue-sung, who provided a deft finish into the bottom corner for his fourth international goal and Korea's third and final one of the night.

Debuts for Kim Dong-jun and Cho Yu-min

Kim Dong-jun of Jeju United started in goal for South Korea, his first ever appearance for the senior national team.  

Daejeon Hana Citizen's Cho Yu-min also debuted for South Korea against China. 

It was a bit of a nervy performance from the first time goalkeeper but in fact, he didn't really have all that much to do over the course of the match, as China didn't register a single shot on target for the duration of the ninety minutes. He had some difficulty managing his clearances at times but still did not concede a goal. At least it will be a learning experience for him as he looks for future opportunities to represent his country. His confidence has been wavering of late with the Tangerines' questionable form in the league, so the hope is that his first exposure with the national team on a playing level will help to boost his outlook for the rest of the season.

Cho Yu-min has had a solid year at club level, wearing the captain's armband for the Purples, while scoring five goals in nineteen appearances thus far.  The 25 year old center back has been one of the most consistent players at the club this year after spending the beginning of his career with Suwon FC.  The national team exposure will do him a world of good as he looks to be a major factor in Daejeon's push to move up to the first division for the 2023 campaign.

Up Next

South Korea will next face Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon with kickoff at 4 p.m. KST followed by the final match against Japan on Wednesday night next week. The team with the best overall record after the three match round-robin will be declared the champion.

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