BANDUNG: Son Heung-min watched from the bench as South Korea tore apart Bahrain 6-0 at the Asian Games on Wednesday to boost the Tottenham Hotspur striker’s chances of avoiding military service by winning gold.
Son, who only joined the squad this week, cheered on the defending champions as Hwang Ui-jo netted a first-half hat-trick and Kim Jin-ya, Na Sang-ho and Hwang Hee-chan also scored in their opening Group ‘E’ game.
Spurs gave Son, 26, special permission to play the Asian Games, where the gold medal represents his last chance of winning a reprieve from his 21 months’ compulsory military service.
As he warmed the bench wearing a black tracksuit top, Hwang quickly took the game away from outclassed Bahrain with his triple strike within 26 minutes in the first half.
The prolific Gamba Osaka forward hammered the opening goal from close range on 17 minutes, before Kim Jin-ya grabbed the Koreans’ second on the rebound six minutes later.
Hwang’s turn and shot on made it 3-0 on 36 minutes, and he could have had another if he had arrived a split-second earlier as Na Sang-ho’s effort trickled over the line.
But Hwang soon brought up his hat-trick with a finish from a tight angle, two minutes before half-time, as South Korea turned 5-0 ahead and in total control.
Bahrain saw more of the ball as South Korea eased off in the second half, but they were unable to find a way past World Cup goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo — who is also hoping to avoid military service.
In the other Group ‘E’ match, Malaysia beat Kyrgyz Republic 3-1.
In Group ‘F’, DPR Korea drew 1-1 with Myanmar while Saudi Arabia and Iran also played a goalless draw.
Hosts Indonesia suffered a blow when they went down 2-1 to Palestine in their while Hong Kong edged closer to the knockout stage after defeating Chinese Taipei 4-0 in Group ‘A’.
Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2018