Asian Games: Son Heung-min one step away from South Korea military pardon after semi-final win over Vietnam
Victory over Vietnam in the semi-finals books a date with Japan or United Arab Emirates in Saturday’s final in Indonesia
South Korea coasted to a 3-1 win over a plucky Vietnam side in Indonesia on Wednesday and took a giant step towards star player Son Heung-min achieving his aim of being pardoned military service back home if they land the Asian Games gold medal.
Son agreed to play with South Korea at the pan-Asia quadrennial event as one of three overage players allowed in the squad in a final attempt at avoiding a spell of mandatory military service that could harm his Premier League career with Tottenham Hotspur.
The 3-1 scoreline didn’t tell the whole story at Pakansari Stadium outside Jakarta, with Vietnam enjoying the lion’s share of possession as well as registering more shots on goal than their opponents.
But the quality of Korea’s build-up play, driven on by Son who grabbed an assist as the creative fulcrum of his side once again, paired with the sharp-shooting of the free-scoring Hwang Ui-jo, who grabbed his ninth goal of the competition, proved the difference.
Afterwards, Son said he thought his side had done enough to win the game.
“We deserved the win,” Son said. “We had lots of chances to score. I think we are better players so we dominated the game.”
They were given the perfect start when Lee Seung-woo grabbed the first of his brace on seven minutes.
Hwang doubled the lead just before the half-hour mark with a deft finish over the onrushing Bui Tien Dung in the Vietnam goal.
The 20-year-old Lee settled matters with his second of the game on 55 minutes.
Vietnam grabbed a consolation goal through a curling Tran Minh Vuong free-kick as they pressed for a way back into the game, but it was too late and South Korea were in the final and on the cusp of a record fifth Asian Games title, their second in a row.
Asked about the upcoming final, Son said he and his teammates felt no pressure over the game.
“We are very close to gold now,” said the 26-year-old. “We’re fighting for that. I don’t need to say anything, we are ready for that.”