A hat-trick from Hwang Ui-jo and an extra time penalty from Hwang Hee-chan sealed Korea Republic a 4-3 win over Uzbekistan on Monday to advance to the 2018 Asian Games Indonesia men's football semi-finals on Monday.
It was a battle of giants at the Patriot Chandrabhaga Stadium, which featured 2014 Incheon Asian Games gold medallists Korea Republic taking on the 2018 AFC U23 champions Uzbekistan.
A key difference from Korea Republic’s campaign four years ago was livewire and captain Son Heung-min, who brought in a wealth of experience to the young squad, and in the fifth minute, he surged down the middle before sending a superb through pass to the right to Hwang Ui-jo, who then released a crackling strike to open the scoring with his sixth goal of the tournament.
Undeterred, Uzbekistan continued playing aggressively and found their equaliser in the 17th minute, which began when the Korean backline failed to properly clear the ball from the box. This led to Dostonbek Khamdamov outmuscling two defenders before sending a back pass to Jaloliddin Masharipov to level the scores.
Ui-jo was undoubtedly the Korean dangerman and in the 35th minute, he let loose yet another brilliant shot that gave Uzbekistan goalkeeper Botirali Ergashev no chance to react as the No. 16 scored his second of the night, courtesy of Hwang In-beom’s assist.
Uzbekistan returned into the second half as determined as ever and were more clinical with their runs in the final third.
Just eight minutes after the break, the young White Wolves equalised once again when Masharipov turned provider with his brilliant cross that found an unmarked Ikromjon Alibaev on the right, who smoothly slotted the ball into the bottom right of the net.
Four minutes later, Uzbekistan were in the lead when Alibaev’s shot was deflected by Korean defender Hwang Hyun-soo past custodian Song Bum-keun, who was caught off guard.
The young Taeguk Warriors showed their class as the fought back to match Uzbekistan’s intensity, and coupled with Son’s prowess, they eventually found their third goal when the Tottenham Hotspur forward set up Ui-jo nicely and he calmly beat ‘keeper Ergashev to complete his hat-trick in the 75th minute.
Both sides continued their pursuit of the winning goal but they both defended well to force the game into extra time.
With tensions raised and a spot in the semi-finals on the line, Lee Seung-woo was cautioned by the referee but Uzbekistan suffered a further setback when Alibaev received his second yellow card of the night and was given his marching orders in the 101st minute.
With their advantage in numbers and Uzbekistan in a defensive formation, Korea Republic took their time moving into enemy territory and were given a superb chance through a penalty when Ui-jo was brought down in the box by Rustamjon Ashurmatov. Hwang Hee-chan stepped up to convert in the 117th minute to claim a spot in the semi-finals.
Korea Republic will face the winners of the Syria-Vietnam tie, who play later on Monday.