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Feisty, relentless S. Korea frustrate Colombia in football friendly win

All Headlines 23:02 November 10, 2017

By Joo Kyung-don

SUWON, South Korea, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- Feisty and relentless all night long, South Korea shocked Colombia 2-1 in their men's football friendly match here on Friday.

South Korea didn't just win the match; they also managed to get into Colombia's collective head with their strong effort on both ends that left the opponents visibly frustrated at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, 46 kilometers south of Seoul.

South Korea won only for the second time in nine matches in 2017. The lone previous victory came way back in March against Syria in a World Cup qualifier.

Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min opened the scoring in the 11th minute, deftly rolling the ball between the legs of a defender and through multiple bodies. And it was only the second time all year that South Korea scored the first goal of any match.

South Korean players celebrate their 2-1 victory over Colombia in a men's football friendly match at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

And the hosts were in control for the majority of the first half. Save for an early free kick attempt, James Rodriguez, the Colombian star commonly known as James, was mostly kept in check. South Korean midfielder Go Yo-han did an outstanding job containing James throughout the evening.

While the 62nd-ranked South Korea may not have been more talented than the 13th-ranked Colombia, the Taeguk Warriors were at least the more determined team. They frequently beat their opponents to 50-50 balls, and didn't shy away from firing shots to test Andres Castellanos in goal. The South Koreans often double- or triple-teamed ball carriers in midfield to foil breakaway attempts.

The result spoke for itself; this was hands-down South Korea's most impressive match of 2017.

Son, who netted his second goal of the match in the second half, was the offensive star, but there were plenty of other unsung heroes.

Son Heung-min of South Korea reacts after clinching a 2-1 victory over Colombia in the teams' football friendly match at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

Before he was lifted to start the second half with an apparent leg injury, forward Lee Keun-ho did yeoman's work up front as Son's sidekick.

He created a lot of space for Son thanks to his smart positioning away from the ball, and Lee himself thrived in open space whenever he had the opportunity himself.

After setting up Son's first goal, Lee looked to join Son on the scoresheet. His header off Kim Jin-su's cross in the 39th minute bounced just wide of the far post on the right. He had consecutive chances in the 40th and 44th minute to keep the Colombian defenders on their toes.

Late in the first half, Lee had his left foot stomped on by defender Davinson Sanchez while on ground after a shot, and stayed on the ground for a few moments in obvious pain.

Lee finished the first half but didn't start the next half. South Korea missed his energy on offense early in the second half, as Colombia tried to draw even.

And once Son doubled South Korea's lead and the hosts tightened their defense, Colombian players grew rather testy.

There were already signs of frustration before Son's second goal, as Abel Aguilar put a hard tackle on Lee Jae-sung in the 50th minute.

Then about two minutes after Son made it 2-0 South Korea, James and Kim Jin-su got tangled up. Some pushing and shoving ensued among several players on both sides before cooler heads prevailed.

Kwong Chang-hoon of South Korea takes a shot against Colombia in the teams' football friendly match at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

Toward the end of the exchange, though, Colombia's Edwin Cardona was caught on camera making an inappropriate, racist gesture at South Korean players, similar to what Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel did on the bench after hitting a home run off Los Angeles Dodgers' Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish during the World Series last month.

It became clear by then the South Koreans had won the mental game, too. And even after Colombia got a goal back late in the second half, South Korea stood their ground and preserved a satisfying victory for the delighted home fans.

The only blemish for the winners may have been how that lone Colombian goal came about.

South Korea had been struggling to defend set-pieces all year. In the 76th, with James taking yet another free kick, defender Cristian Zapata was allowed to walk in free toward the net and put his head on the ball, just beating goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu to it.

The defenders mostly followed the flight of the kick and botched their coverage of the charging player.

South Korea will next face Serbia on Tuesday in Ulsan, some 410 kilometers southeast of Seoul. It will be the final match at home for the year. Now that the offense has apparently woken up, an improved defense will help make mid-year struggles seem like a distant memory.


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