Kuala Lumpur: Jeong Sang-bin was Korea Republic’s hero as the substitute’s 68th minute strike gave the young Taeguek Warriors a 1-0 win over India and a place in the semi-finals of the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 on Monday.
Korea Republic had, until then, struggled to break down the India defence but Jeong showed great instinct to slot in a loose ball at the MBPJ Stadium.
The win assures Korea Republic a berth in the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup and they can now focus on the semi-final against Tajikistan on Thursday.
Korea Republic, so impressive in winning Group D with a perfect record with no goals conceded, were quick to seize possession but India, who had also not let in any goals in emerging runners-up in Group C, showed discipline in defence.
The South Asians made it difficult for Korea Republic to break past their defence and it took 14 minutes for their first shot on target through Kim Ryun-seong’s right-footed effort.
Choi Min-seo came agonisingly close in the 37th minute with his strike to the bottom right corner of the net but goalkeeper Niraj Kumar was on top of his game as he dived low to keep the game goalless.
Korea Republic custodian Shin Song-hoon, who was hardly tested in the first half, was forced into making his first save of the night in the second minute of added time when Ravi Bahadur let loose a menacing strike from 30 metres out.
Bibiano Fernandes’ side returned from the break with more of an attacking flair and Givson Singh Moirangthem’s half-volley from the edge of the box in the 52nd minute was denied by an alert Shin who punched the ball away.
Korea Republic, however, continued to dictate play and after numerous tries, the young Taeguk Warriors found their breakthrough in the 68th minute, when a string of passes gave Choi a chance to release a strike.
Kumar could only parry the shot and the surging Jeong made no mistake with his follow up.
India threw players forward after that but Kim Jung-soo’s side held on to seal the win to ensure their dream of a third AFC U-16 Championship crown remains alive.