AFC Asian Cup 2023: Marauding Kim Min-Jae leads South Korea to win over Bahrain

Bayern Munich central defender Kim Min-Jae was key in South Korea’s opening AFC Asian Cup win over Bahrain.

Published : Jan 15, 2024 19:40 IST , Doha - 3 MINS READ

South Korea’s Kim Min-Jae tussles for the ball in the AFC Asian Cup opening match against Bahrain.
South Korea’s Kim Min-Jae tussles for the ball in the AFC Asian Cup opening match against Bahrain. | Photo Credit: AP

South Korea’s Kim Min-Jae tussles for the ball in the AFC Asian Cup opening match against Bahrain. | Photo Credit: AP

Kim Min-Jae, one of the key players to guide Napoli to its historic Scudetto after 33 years, has earned the nickname ‘Monster’ for his dominating presence on the field.

The South Korean central defender wanders around the park, looking for gaps in the opposition half. When it arrives, starts pulling strings in attack.

Precisely that saw South Korea overpower Bahrain 3-1 at the Jassin bin Hamad Stadium on a scorching afternoon here on Monday.

In two of the three goals of Jurgen Klinsamnn’s side, it was ‘the Monster’ -- who earned a big-money transfer to Bayern Munich last summer -- who did the talking. 

Earlier, Bahrain, under, Juan Antonio Pizzi – who had led Chile to the Copa America title in 2016 – started the match, advancing forward aggressively, and got the first chance of the game within six minutes.

Komail Alaswad’s free-kick found Mohamed Marhoon, who headed the ball over the net.

REPORT | Asian Cup 2023: Full points table LIVE, goals scored, goal difference

Korea absorbed the pressure and had its first attack at the half-hour mark, Park Yongwoo carrying the ball up the pitch, passing it to Lee Jaesung on his left, whose cross was struck off-target by Cho Guesung. 

Eight minutes later, Min-Jae made his move.

After a quick scan of the field, he caught Bahrain napping with a pin-point through ball for Jaesung on his left, who crossed again. This time, Korea found the net – Hwang Inbeom scoring his sixth goal in international colours.

After the restart, Bahrain tried to take the same approach as the first period, moving forward with aggression and found the equaliser within six minutes, Abdullah Al Hashah causing an uproar among the Bahrainian fans in the tiny stadium.

However, Korea had its plans chalked out during the break. While Jaesung was its target man along the flanks (left) in the first half, Lee Kangin (right) donned that role in the second. Within five minutes, Korea was ahead with Min-Jae once again influential in the build-up.

The defender, this time, lurking around the right flank, played a pass through the middle to Lee Kangin, who curled in a left-footer into the net. That goal was the nitro-boost moment for Korea, which started raining attacks one after the other afterwards.

Son Heung-Min, Korea’s captain, who played as one of the two strikers in the starting line-up, eventually got into his conventional Tottenham Hotspur role as an inverted winger, making a run along the left in the 69th minute.

He passed the ball to Inbeom in the centre, who then set up Lee Kangin to score his second of the game.

Though Min-Jae was subbed off for Kim Younggwon later in the game, it was his reading of the game, along with the attacking prowess of Son and Kangin, that ensured the Taegeuk Warriors started their AFC Asian Cup 2023 campaign on a high.

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