South Korea Defeats Japan at Women's East Asian Cup Football Tournament
D-Bo , Aug. 4, 2015, 9:41 a.m.
South Korea rallied to defeat Japan 2-1 for its second straight victory at the ongoing Women's East Asian Cup football tournament in China on Tuesday. Midfielder Jeon Ga-eul scored the improbable winner on a thunderous free kick in injury time to lift South Korea from an early 1-0 deficit at Wuhan Sports Center Stadium. South Korea had defeated China 1-0 last Saturday in the opener last Saturday. The finale will be against North Korea at 5:10 p.m. local time Saturday, back at the same venue.
The nation with the best record after the round-robin play will be declared the champion. South Korea was the inaugural champ of the Women's East Asian Cup in 2005. Japan won the next two and North Korea captured the most recent one in 2013. The teams were evenly matched in the opening moments, though South Korean forward Jung Seol-bin had a near-clean breakaway foiled by defender Tomoko Muramatsu.
Before Jeon's winner, captain Cho So-hyun, scored the equalizer on a breakaway in the 54th minute. Both players sat out the opener against China, as head coach Yoon Duk-yeo decided to keep them fresh against Japan. Afterward, Yoon thanked Jeon and Cho for rewarding his faith.
"These two players weren't feeling their 100 percent, but I was confident they could play a major role in this match," Yoon said. "Our players were exhausted and I wasn't completely satisfied with our overall performance. But a win is a win and we'll try to get ready for the third match." Japan then took advantage of a momentary lapse of focus on the South Korean defense. South Korea failed to clear a cross and Emi Nakajima pounced on a loose ball from the top of the box, rolling it past goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi.
South Korea upped the pressure in the second half and the efforts paid off in the 54th minute. Cho stole the ball in midfield, penetrated deep into the Japanese zone and fired one past the diving keeper Ayaka Yamashita. In their celebration, the South Koreans hoisted the jersey of their injured teammate Shim Seo-yeon, who was ruled out of the competition with a torn knee ligament suffered against China.
With the South Koreans often sloppy in their own zone, Japan kept knocking on the door without much to show for its work. Yuri Kawamura fired it just wide of the left post in the 71st, and five minutes later, Mai Kyokawa curled one from the top of the arc and barely missed the bottom right hand corner. When the match seemed headed for a seemingly inevitable draw, South Korea earned a free kick near the left edge of the box. Jeon then stepped up and struck it past Yamashita, completing a stunning comeback.