CANBERRA (AFP) – South Korea got their bid for a first Asian Cup trophy in 55 years off to a winning start on Saturday, beating Oman 1-0 in their Group A clash.
The Koreans dominated possession from the off at Canberra Stadium, but it took until first-half injury time before they finally broke the deadlock.
Forward Cho Young-Cheol reacted quickest to bury a rebound after a parry from Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, delighting the crowd which was overwhelmingly cheering on the Taeguk Warriors.
South Korea coach Uli Stielike had promised that his side would see most of the ball, and they did, but they lacked a killer instinct up front.
Bayer Leverkusen star Son Heung-Min came closest to opening the scoring after seven minutes when he dinked the ball over Al Habsi, only for it to come back off the crossbar.
Captain Ki Sung-Yueng bossed the middle of the park throughout the opening 45 minutes, though a number of defence-splitting passes found no end product.
Al Habsi pushed away a stinging free-kick five minutes before halftime and it looked as if Oman were going to go into the break level before Cho popped up with his goal.
Oman’s best attempt in the first half came when Eid Al Farsi curled a free-kick wide but they were also unlucky to have a penalty shout waved away.
More South Korea goals seemed certain after the interval but resolute Oman defending kept the scoreline at 1-0.
Midfielder Lee Chung-Yong hit the side netting before Al Habsi atoned for his earlier mistake by tipping over a powerful Koo Ja-Cheol header just short of the hour mark.
South Korea pushed for a second but were unable to capitalise on their possession and almost paid for it at the death.
Oman substitute Imad Al Hosni almost snatched an unlikely draw when his header was superbly tipped onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon. South Korea, one of the tournament favourites and World Cup semifinalists in 2002, last won the Asian Cup in 1960.