Last-gasp Korea Republic sink China

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Korea Republic snatched a last gasp winner to register a 1-0 victory in their opening AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 fixture against China at Tinsulanon Stadium on Thursday.

The Koreans looked destined to be held by a determined Chinese outfit, but a goal from substitute Lee Dong-jun in the third minute of stoppage time ensured Kim Hak-bum's side finished the opening Matchday of Group C top of the table.

While Korea Republic touched down in Thailand having never fallen short of the AFC U23 Championship's final four, China are still chasing their first knockout stage appearance, and the early action appeared to follow the script as the Koreans dominated possession and carved out a number of opportunities in the final third.

Towering striker Oh Se-hun's close early header provided an early warning, and China's impressive shot-stopper Chen Wei was forced into two strong saves, but while both Lee Dong-gyeong and Um Won-sang posed a constant threat to the Chinese defence, none of Korea Republic's eight first half shots on goal produced the breakthrough they were looking for.

While China found themselves defending for much of the contest, they proved efficient when they had the ball, despite the loss of attacking focal point Zhang Yuning to a first half injury.

Duan Liuyu twice drew straightforward but necessary saves from Song Bum-Keun, before the Jeonbuk Motors goalkeeper was forced into a more difficult stop in the early stages of the second half by Yang Liuyu.

Korean substitute Kim Jin-gyu almost broke the deadlock in bizarre fashion when a looping header he appeared to know little about forced Chen into a fingertip save just after the hour mark, but the chances were by then coming relatively slowly for Kim Hak-bum's side, who found less attacking joy the longer the game went on.

But just as a draw looked inevitable, Lee, another substitute, latched onto a long pass, stroked the ball beyond Chen and set off wild celebrations among the Korean bench, simultaneously breaking Chinese hearts.

With three points secured, Korea Republic are set for another tough assignment when they face Hamid Estili's Islamic Republic of Iran of Sunday, while China have a date with defending champions Uzbekistan, with both matches to be held at Tinsulanon Stadium.

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