Lee Kang-in hits superb second-half double as South Korea beat Bahrain at Asian Cup

PSG winger's brace earns Jurgen Klinnsman's side 3-1 win in opening game of tournament

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A sensational second-half double from Paris Saint-Germain winger Lee Kang-in earned South Korea a 3-1 win over Bahrain in their Asian Cup opener on Monday.

Jurgen Klinnsman's side – one of the favourites to lift the crown in Qatar – took the lead in the 38th minute through Hwang In-beom only for Abdullah Al Hashsash to level the scores with a surprise equaliser six minutes after half-time.

But the Bahrain joy proved short-lived as Lee quickly restored his side's advantage at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium before going on to secure all three points in the Group E clash with his second goal 12 minutes from time.

Lee has made a big impact since moving from La Liga side Mallorca to the French champions in the summer and was hailed as “a complete player” by PSG manager Luis Enrique after scoring his first Ligue 1 goal in the 3-0 win over Montpellier in November.

And the 22-year-old has now made his mark in the Asian Cup after just one game in a group that also includes Malaysia and Jordan. “Everyone in the locker room and people back home are waiting for this trophy we haven't won in 64 years,” he said. “We're motivated but it's still too early to talk about winning the championship.”

South Korea were without Hwang Hee-chan – who has scored 10 goals for Premier League side Wolves this season – after striker failed to recover from a hip injury.

And the team struggled to find their rhythm early on, picking up three bookings inside the opening 30 minutes, including Bayern Munich defender Kim Min-jae for clattering through the back of Bahrain’s Mohamed Mahroon.

It was not until the half-hour mark that Korea had their first clear-cut opportunity but striker Cho Gue-sung could only balloon his shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

Bahrain almost took a shock lead when Ali Madan was put through on goal but the winger fired his shot narrowly off target.

And it was advantage Red Devils not long after though following a quick-flowing move down the left wing that saw Lee Jae-sung square for Hwang In-beom to curl home through a crowd of Bahrain defenders.

Bahrain came out fighting in the second half and they were duly rewarded when Al Hashsash found space in the box and slotted home into the bottom corner.

However, South Korea were quickly back in front after Lee cut in from the right to send a spectacular curling strike from outside the penalty area and into the net past helpless Bahrain goalkeeper Ebrahim Lutfalla.

The PSG playmaker doubled his tally soon after when he received the ball just inside the box from Hwang, turning inside Bahrain defender Waleed Al Hayam before slotting home into the bottom corner.

Captain Son Heung-min then missed a chance to make it 4-1 when he shot wide from inside the box three minutes from time, while the Tottenham Hotspur attacker was also shown a yellow card for diving in the box looking to win a penalty deep in injury time.

“It was a tough game, as we expected. Bahrain obviously prepared really well and it was tough to break [them down], especially when we went up 1-0,” Son said.

“Obviously we have to do better. But I think the most important thing is that we won the game.”

Updated: January 15, 2024, 4:03 PM