After being robbed of a penalty by an incomprehensible officiating decision, Son Heung-min hit the ground in frustration. But he showed his class by making the most key passes of the game.
Jürgen Klinsmann’s side won a 1-0 friendly against Saudi Arabia at St. James’ Park in Newcastle, England, on Sept. 13, thanks to a header from Cho Kyu-sung in the 32nd minute. With three draws and two defeats in five games since his appointment in March, Klinsmann’s job was in jeopardy, but he bounced back with his first win in six tries.
Son Heung-min was given an attacking role on the day and led the attack. There were moments when he hit the ground running. He hit the ground when he was robbed of a penalty kick opportunity by an incomprehensible refereeing decision, but he also proved his class as a playmaker, as no other player, Korean or Saudi, had more key passes than Son.
The starting lineup was the same as against Wales. Kim Seung-gyu was in goal, while Lee Ki-je, Kim Min-jae, Jung Seung-hyun, and Seol Young-woo were in defense. Lee Jae-sung, Hwang In-beom, Park Yong-woo, and Hwang Hee-chan formed the midfield. Son Heung-min formed the front two with Cho Kyu-sung. The remaining 10 players were the same except for Hong Hyun-seok, who was left out of the Asian Games squad, who was replaced by Hwang Hee-chan.
Saudi Arabia lined up in a 4-3-3. Mohammed Alowais started in goal, while Saud Abdulhamid, Hassan Altambakti, Ali Alboleahi, and Yasir Alsharani formed the backline. Mohamed Kano, Abdulrahman Alkaibari, and Nasser Aldosari combined in the midfield. Abdulrahman Gharib, Abdulrahman Alhamdan, and Salem Aldosari attacked the Korean goal.
The match against Saudi Arabia was Klinsmann’s sixth attempt to get his first win. After going winless in his first five matches in charge of the Korean national team, with three draws and two losses, Klinsmann managed only a 1-1 draw against South American giants Colombia and Uruguay in two A matches in March. However, the strength of their opponents didn’t cause much concern at the time.
However, in the June A match, the mood was different. They lost against Peru, a South American side with no significant difference in power, and even their subsequent match against El Salvador left much to be desired with a 1-1 draw. El Salvador had just suffered a 0-6 defeat against Japan before facing South Korea, so fans were understandably hoping for a win, but the draw, coupled with a disappointing performance, meant that their first win would have to wait until another time.
As the first win continued to elude them, criticism of Klinsmann began to grow. Fans were disappointed that he hadn’t won in his first four games in charge of the national team, criticized his lack of tactical coloration, and expressed frustration that he hadn’t kept his promise to stay in Sangju, South Korea, and had been traveling abroad and working from home.
Klinsmann later said, “It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that I don’t live in Korea. Regardless of where I’m physically located, I think the way I communicate and observe players is different now than it used to be,” he said in response to the work-from-home controversy, but the criticism didn’t abate, and Klinsmann entered the A match in September under intense fan scrutiny. But despite his admission that he was a workaholic, the South Korean team’s performance against Wales did not rebound.
It was a case of a lack of player identification, with Hong Hyun-seok, who had shown promise as a central midfielder for his club, being dropped to the flanks, and Hwang In-beom, who had a lack of experience due to a conflict with his club, starting up front. The team’s lack of tactical coloration also led to criticism for playing colorless football, especially with only one shot on target in the entire match, which was enough to raise questions about Klinsmann’s tactical direction.
There was even speculation that Klinsmann could be sacked if he didn’t get a result in Saudi Arabia. “If Klinsmann fails to get a result in the September A-match, he will be able to spend as much time as he wants in the United States,” the BBC reported.
In this situation, South Korean captain Son Heung-min stepped in. After playing a bit lower against Wales, he played a bit higher against Saudi Arabia and utilized his teammates around him.
Heung-min opened the scoring in the 12th minute when he received a pass from Lee Jae-sung at the top of the box and finished with a left-footed shot. Ten minutes later, he linked up with Lee Jae-sung again. Jae-sung delivered a precise pass to Son Heung-min, who broke through and sent a cross over the top of the goal.
In the 25th minute, Cho wasted no time in threatening the Saudi goal with a left-footed mid-range shot when he was given a shooting angle at the front of the box. Later, Cho Kyu-sung’s goal was the result of a clever play. Lee Jae-sung’s pass was centered by Son Heung-min in the penalty arc area, and Hwang In-beom cut in and stabbed it straight at the goal. The Saudi defense cleared the ball to Cho Kyu-sung, who rattled the net with an effortless header.
Just two minutes after Cho’s goal, Son Heung-min was sent to the ground by the referee. Cho Kyu-sung intercepted an opponent’s pass and sent a pass to Son Heung-min, who was penetrating. Son then broke into the box and appeared to have a one-on-one opportunity. However, a late tackle from the opposing defense came in, and the tackler was unable to touch the ball and only hit Son Heung-min’s foot.
It was a clear penalty for tripping over an opponent’s foot, but the referee let the play continue. Heung-min slammed the ground several times to express his frustration, asking why the referee didn’t give him a penalty. It was a friendly match, so there was no VAR.
Still, Son Heung-min proved his class until the end. He was on the field for 89 minutes before being replaced by Oh Hyun-gyu in the 44th minute, opening up the offense.아톰카지노
According to soccer statistics company Footmob, Son created seven chances on the day, the most of any player on either side. He also created two chances that turned out to be decisive. He completed 81% of his passes, 100% of his long passes, and 80% of his crosses, giving him the highest rating of 8.0 despite playing more to help his teammates than to score.
He didn’t score a goal as he was robbed of a penalty kick opportunity by a poor refereeing decision, but he proved his class as a playmaker in the attack.