The 2015 Asian Cup reached its climax on Saturday night with a dramatic 2-1 extra time win for the host nation Australia over South Korea at Sydney’s Stadium Australia.
The Taeguk Warriors were looking to break their poor history of not having seen continental glory in over half a century, but it was Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos that triumphed to lift their first senior mens silverware since joining the Asian Football Confederation in 2006.
Son Heung-min looked to electrify the crowd and be his side’s main attacking in the first half, finding space on several occasions inside the attacking penalty half, including a narrowly-wide volley and a first time attempt that deflected off Massimo Luongo to miss the target.
The half was also notable for its ferocity both on and off the ball, with yellow cards to both Ivan Franjic and Jason Davidson, while Nam Tae-hee received some bite back in the tenth minute for his foul on Mile Jedinak, who gave a shove to the Lekhwiya playmaker’s chest before the Crystal Palace an Australia captain confronted the referee.
The crowd of 76,385 also witnessed South Korea’s first conceded goal of the tournament in the 44th minute, when against the run of play Luongo received a pass from Trent Sainsbury and turned to move into space before blasting the ball beyond Kim Jin-hyeon from outside the box.
Lee Joon-hyup and Mathew Leckie forced fine saves out of respective goalkeepers Mathew Ryan and Kim Jin-hyeon in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, as the Taeguk Warriors were forced to open up further to try creating chances against a resilient Socceroos back line, which in turn gave the Socceroos to exploit space with their speed.
The large crowd was vocal as the Socceroos supporters started to realise their team was about to lift the title after having missed out to an extra time goal in 2011’s edition of the tournament, but some interplay at the edge of the box by Son Heung-min, Han Kook-young and Ki Sung-yueng allowed Son the smallest inch of space needed for the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder to put him an equaliser seconds into additional time and put the game into extra time.
Substitutes Tomi Juric and James Troisi teamed up in the final seconds before half time in extra time to send the Socceroos fans into pandemonium, with Juric holding off countless attempts to pluck the ball from his feet before turning inside the box and squaring the ball. Cerezo Osaka goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon palmed the ball away, but could only get the ball far away enough for the chasing James Troisi to reach and send into the top of the net.
The final 15 minutes of extra time saw the tireless Socceroos push a weary South Korea side that was in its second extra time of the knockout stages and making more mistakes as fatigue set into the legs.
While the Koreans were determined to break through the deepened defence, their chances failed to truly threaten Ryan, as the Socceroos began to absorb pressure in waiting for referee Alirezaa Faghani’s final blow of the whistle.
After South Korea failed to make anything of the one minute of added time declared by the fourth official, Stadium Australia erupted into cheers as their Socceroos stood as champions of Asia.