Australia have claimed their first ever Asian Cup title, as they managed an entertaining and dramatic 2-1 extra time win over Korea Republic at Stadium Australia on Saturday night. It looked set to be won in regulation but a stoppage time Korean equalizer sent the match to extra time.
It was a fitting end to a stunning tournament as 76, 385 fans made it out to the Olympic Stadium in Sydney to witness the thrilling match. Australia win their first Asian Cup since joining the Asian Football Confederation in 2006 while for Korea Republic their 55 year wait will continue as they continue to wait, not having won the trophy since 1960.
There was just one change to the semi-final sides as Australia named a completely unchanged 11 after Ivan Franjic passed a fitness test. Korea Republic made one change with Jang Hyun-soo coming in to the starting lineup.
Both sides started the match well as a thrilling end-to-end match occurred, with Korea looking to stun the Socceroos early, but they could not break through and pressure Mat Ryan. Tim Cahill had a good chance in the 27th minute, the clearest of the match to that point as he found space and got a shoot away but it was well saved.
But as the half wore on Korea Republic really started to take charge and in the final 10 minutes of the half they had several chances. Son Heung-min was the key man for Korea and in the 37th minute he had a golden opportunity as Park Joo-ho and Kim Jin-su linked up well to set up Son but he volleyed wide. Redemption came to Son just one minute later as he shot and looked certain to score but was denied by a perfect block from Massimo Luongo.
A goal down in the second half, Korea were determined to go for the match, and they surged early in the half to try and pressure the Socceroos. It was clear that Korea were the more likely to score in the half, but as it went on Australia looked stronger in defense while Korea threw men forward, which left space.
As the half wore on, the Socceroos were hoping that Korea Republic would tire as they were constantly on the attack but had no such luck. Korea Republic kept on knocking and in the final ten minutes had almost all of the ball, but their best chances were only coming from set pieces as Australia held them at bay.
The Socceroos may well have thought they had held on enough as the clock ticked over to 90 minutes but in stoppage time Korea drew level. Despite the set piece tendency, the Korean goal came in general play as Ki Sung-yueng sent a ball through for Son Heung-min who ran on to it and slammed it home to send the match to extra time.
Extra-time was much like regulation as both sides started frantically but Australia seemed to settle the quickest and they were able to create the chances in the first half. And as time ran out at the end of the first half, Australia restored their lead, Tomi Juric, twice fell to the ground but played on, rounded his man and sent a ball in that was saved, only for James Troisi to run on and tap home, to put Australia 2-1 up after the first 15 minutes.
The second half of extra time was absolutely all Korea as they dominated, desperately seeking a goal, but the Australian defense was strong. After a tense 15 minutes full of nervous moments for the Socceroos they emerged, to claim their first piece of Asian silverware.