An early goal from Park Ji-sung and a late penalty from Park Chu-young gave South Korea a 2-0 win over Japan in Saitama Stadium on Monday evening.
In a game of few chances, the captain’s fifth minute strike was enough to win the game for the visitors but Park’s injury time spot kick added an extra sheen as Korea picked up their second win in Japan in less than four months.
It is a third straight home defeat for Japan who, like their rivals, picked a strong line-up containing their European-based stars.
Perhaps the best known of them all made the difference not long after kick-off.
There seemed to be little danger when Park Ji-sung collected the ball 30 metres from goal but the Manchester United star dashed forward to the right corner of the penalty area and despite the attentions of three men in blue, fired a low shot into the opposite corner to silence a boisterous Saitama Stadium.
Japan were shocked by the start but went close after 22 minutes. Yoshito Okubo collected the ball on the halfway line and carried it to just shy of the Korean area from where he shot just wide.
Those who expected the game to be a niggly affair were correct as the first half especially saw a number of tackles flying in and the whistle constantly in the mouth of the English referee.
The second half settled down somewhat but chances were few and far between and as the minutes ticked by, a slew of substitutions prevented any building of momentum –though the introduction of Serie A striker Takayuki Morimoto gave the Korean defence a little more to think about.
But the visitors came very close to extending their lead with 12 minutes remaining when Seigo Narazaki had to backpedal to keep a Kim Nam-il chip from creeping into the net and soon after another substitute, Lee Sung-ryeol, shot straight into the arms of the goalkeeper from a good position.
With time running out, the Nagoya shotstopper brought down Park Chu-young in the area and the AS Monaco marksman, returning to the team after injury, stepped up to give his team a fourth straight win.
Japan take on the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon in South Africa while Korea face Argentina, Greece and Nigeria.
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