Lee Kang-in’s two goals in the second half secured a positive beginning for Korea Republic against Bahrain in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ on Monday.
The winger from Paris Saint-Germain guided his team to a 3-1 victory with a brace over Bahrain at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Group E.
Hwang In-beom provided Jurgen Klinsmann’s team with a 38th-minute lead. However, after Abdulla Al Hashash equalized six minutes into the second half, Lee Kang-in scored twice in a span of 13 minutes to secure the victory for the two-time AFC Asian Cup champions.
In the 56th minute, the 22-year-old executed an exquisite strike from 25 yards for his first goal. He then sealed the win with 21 minutes remaining, delivering a clinical finish into the bottom corner of Ebrahim Lutfalla’s goal.
In the end, Klinsmann’s team secured a comfortable victory, but Bahrain provided an early warning when Mohamed Marhoon headed Komail Al Aswad’s free-kick over the crossbar.
Korea Republic had a close opportunity on the half-hour mark, with Cho Gue-sung blasting over the bar. Bahrain nearly took the lead in the 33rd minute as Ali Madan connected with Al Hashash’s well-placed through ball, but his shot narrowly missed the target.
Five minutes later, Korea Republic seized the lead. Kim Min-jae’s pass located Lee Jae-sung in open space within the penalty area. The midfielder from FSV Mainz advanced and delivered a precise pass to Hwang, who confidently slotted a left-footed shot well beyond Lutfalla.
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As the Koreans aimed for a second goal before halftime, Lee Kang-in’s free-kick narrowly cleared the crossbar, and Son Heung-min’s 20-yard attempt found the goalkeeper’s arms. Despite the increased pressure, Bahrain managed to hold on.
In the 51st minute, Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team, led by Al Hashash, drew level. Al Hashash scored from eight yards out after Kim Seung-gyu had made a sprawling save to his right, denying Al Aswad moments earlier.
However, the parity was short-lived as Lee Kang-in restored the lead for his side just five minutes later. The former Valencia winger created space in a central position 25 yards from goal and punished Bahrain with a left-footed strike that beat the goalkeeper via the inside of the post.
Son shot over the bar before Lee Kang-in struck again, receiving possession from Hwang inside the area. He skillfully stepped inside the defense to curl his second goal past the helpless Lutfalla.
The Koreans had opportunities for more goals, with Son having an effort ruled out for offside and also narrowly steering a late attempt wide. The Taeguk Warriors started their quest for a first AFC Asian Cup title in 64 years in emphatic fashion.
Korea Republic’s next match is against Jordan on Saturday, while Bahrain will aim to revive their fortunes against Malaysia.