Korea Republic required an injury-time winner from substitute Lee Dong-jun to beat China PR 1-0 and get up and running in Group C of the 2020 AFC U23 Championship on Thursday.
In what was expected to be a keenly-contested encounter at the Tinsulanon Stadium, both sides showed plenty of endeavour but were just lacking that killer touch in front of goal for much of the 90 minutes.
China’s Zhang Yuning – who was once on the books of then-Premier League outfit West Brom – came excruciatingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 17th minute when he trapped a long ball effortlessly and immediately turned towards goal, only to curl a speculative effort just wide of the far post.
Meanwhile, the South Koreans looked dangerous from set-pieces, especially with the 1.93-metre tall Oh Se-hun leading the line, although they were largely smothered by a conservative China effort from open play.
The Chinese’s prospects were not helped by an injury to Zhang just before halftime, but they still looked to have done enough to earn a share of the spoils.
All that changed in the third minute of injury-time when a lovely lofted pass by Kim Jin-kyu found fellow substitute Lee, who brought it into his stride brilliantly and coolly cut inside a defender before guiding a shot into the bottom corner to send Korea Republic top of Group C.
KOREA REPUBLIC: Song Bum-keun, Kang Yun-seong, Lee Sang-min, Kim Jae-woo, Kim Jin-ya, Maeng Seong-ung (Kim Jin-kyu 46’), Kim Dong-hyun, Um Won-sang (Jeong Woo-yeong 74’), Lee Dong-gyeong, Kim Dae-won (Lee Dong-jun 58’), Oh Se-hun.
CHINA PR: Chen Wei, Feng Boxuan, Wei Zhen, Zhu Chenjie, Dilmurat Mawlanyaz, Hu Jinghang, Huang Zhengyu, Huang Cong, Chen Binbin (Chen Pu 90+1’), Duan Liuyu, Zhang Yuning (Yang Liyu 43’).