Mon, Jul 23, 2007 - Page 20 News List

S Korea defeat Iran on penalty shots

HARD-FOUGHT The match featured uncompromising soccer with solid challenges and a large number of fouls as the South Koreans gave as good as they got

AFP , KUALA LUMPUR

Iran forward Rasoul Khatibi, center, attempts a shot through South Korean players during the Asian Cup quarter-finals at the Bukit Jalil stadium in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. South Korea won 4-2 on penalties.

PHOTO: AFP

South Korea won a gruelling and fluctuating epic 4-2 on penalties against Iran yesterday to set up an Asian Cup semi-final with Iraq.

The shootout became the circuit-breaker after both teams had played themselves to a standstill over the regulation 90 minutes and 30 minutes' extra time without scoring a goal.

The Koreans held their nerve in a tense shoot-out with their veteran goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae proving the hero when he saved efforts from Mehdi Mahdavikia and Rasoul Khatibi to acclaim from the chanting South Korean supporters.

It was the second quarter-final at the tournament to go to a shoot-out after Japan knocked out Australia 4-3 on penalties in Hanoi on Saturday.

But the South Koreans will have just two days to recover from the energy-sapping match played on a heavy pitch before facing Iraq in Wednesday's semi-final in Kuala Lumpur.

It was huge relief for South Korea, who had been beaten twice in their three previous quarter-finals with Iran at the Asian Cup.

South Korea won the Asian Cup 1960 and 1964 and despite finals appearances in 1972, 1980 and 1988, have yet to add another trophy.

They are now just one game away from the final next Sunday in Jakarta.

It was tough uncompromising soccer with solid challenges and a large number of fouls with the South Koreans giving as good as they got from three-time champions Iran, a pre-tournament favorite.

Midfielder Mehrzad Madanchi became the first player booked when he brought down live-wire Korean striker Lee Chun-soo midway through the opening half.

South Korea almost caught Iran on the counter with slick passing for Lee to race clear but he was deemed to have fouled Madanchi and the chance was wasted.

Goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae was forced to make an important body block on Ali Karimi's close-range volley a few minutes from half-time and defender Kim Jin-kyu needed to make a hurried clearance to keep his team's goal intact right on the break.

Striker Yeom Ki-hun almost broke the deadlock on the hour when his shot bobbled off the wet surface and Rodbarian did well to turn it away for a corner and keep his goal intact.

Khatibi beat the advancing goalkeeper Lee but defender Oh Beom-seok conceded a yellow card for his tackle that brought down Khatibi wide on the left in a let-off for South Korea in the 68th minute.

The match went into extra-time and Javad Nekounam looked like he was poised to score at the end of the first period when his drive off a Karimi lay-off flashed just wide of the left post.

In the final minute of extra-time Iran coach Amir Ghalenoei replaced goalkeepers with Vahid Talebloo coming on for Rodbarian as he planned his strategy for the penalty shoot-out.

But it was 34-year-old Lee, who has played more than 100 times for his country and was a vital part of their run to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals, who became a national hero in the shootout.

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