Steel Roses bloom once again
Stage a come-from-behind win over Korea & regain title glory after 2006
PUNE: The Korea Republic seemed to have forgotten a simple rule that suggests opportunity knocks once and when it comes grab it. Instead, when the same situation came calling, China People’s Republic made no mistake.
As a result, China annexed their ninth AFC Women’s Asian Cup title leaving Korea not just dazed but smacking themselves for blowing up a so-near-yet-so-far situation in their maiden final appearance.
Korea’s coach Colin Bell, best-portrayed disappointment. Slumping back into the team dugout he nodded hopelessly for what stared at him was a 3-2 scoreline, which otherwise would have been a score his side would have celebrated.
And to think that the Steel Roses trailed 0-2 before upstaging the Taeguk Warriors would have rung louder in Bell’s understanding.
UNBELIEVABLE CHANGE IN FORTUNE
So just where did the equation change?
Well in specifics, in the first 3 minutes of the 5 in added time. Tied 2-2 and into the first minute, Korea, to their shock, had Son Hwayeon blast her half-volley, offered by defender Yao Wei following a lopsided desperate clearance, onto the goalkeeper Zhu Yu from no less than 10-yards. It was a blunder that got the coach animated for it certainly was a goal-to-be.
Two minutes later, at the other end, China on a counter worked artistry and had two substitutes – Zhang Rui and Xio Yuyi, involved in netting the winner. Zhang Rui, midway into the Korea half, put skipper Wang Shanshan in possession on the top of the box. The skipper, with an eye on a quick Xio Yuyi on the overlap, released past a wanting defence to Xio Yuyi who with the clear space and path finished the chance by drilling a low drive past the goalkeeper to the far post.
For Xio the goal was her second international in her 97th appearance.
Thereafter, it was a matter of acceptance and history for China which got back to title ways after 2006.
KOREA DRAWS FIRST BLOOD
China began the day by running early. Tang Jiali earned a corner-kick after her casual attempt deflected off a defender. Zhang Xin who took it was far from making or creating an impact in the box.
Korea was going through a nervy phase, which was obvious for they were playing their first final and compounding the situation was the hard running that China adopted.
Ten minutes on and Zhang Xin ambitiously tried from long but to no more than a regulation collection by the Korean goalkeeper
Wu Chenshu, from the right, constantly made inroads but by then Korea had settled keeping all threats at bay.
Settling into a midfield battle, Korea stepped up when they found open space on the right channel, which resulted in Choe Yuri (27th) jabbing finish stun China (1-0).
Setting off on a solo, Lee Geummin worked hard to stay marginally ahead of Yao Lingwei. What followed was a measured and precision delivery that fell in the path of an inside the box positioned Choe Yuri. With defender Lou Jiahui making a valiant effort, Choe gave the cross justice jabbing past the rival goalkeeper.
For Choe, the goal was her first in the Championship and this edition’s 100th.
CHINA PUSHED BACK FURTHER
Korea grew with confidence. The goal, obviously, catalysing their attacks with purpose which in turn led to China committing mistakes.
In one such move, Korea earned a free kick on the right. Ji So-Yun, with the kick, floated the ball into the box and found Son Hwayeon's well-connected header that the goalkeeper dived wide and punched out. China survived!
Nearing the end of the first half, China conceded a penalty kick which Mi So-Yun converted cleanly. The penalty came about after Lee Geummin attacked the left flank, before turning back to cross. In doing so, Lee, challenged by defender Yao Lingwei, evaded her rival and instead had Yao fail to get her hand off the ball. A VAR referral ended in Korea’s favour.
At halftime, Korea had a 2-goal cushion, leaving the China coach Shui Qingxia thinking.
CHINA - THE COMEBACK QUEENS
China returned and just like they turned tables against Japan in the semis did the same once more.
On the first count, China won a never to be penalty-kick when Lee Young-ju carelessly had an extra foot forward turn disastrous when she tried to make amends to block a Wang Shanshan cross from the left. The block proved costly as Tang Jiali (67th) slipped the ball under goalkeeper Kim Jung Mi and unlocked her for only the second time in the tournament.
Seven minutes later, China brought the game on a level when Zhang Linyan headed home a free ball after Tang Jiali superbly cut past the tight space between Choo Hyojoo and Shim Seo-Yeon to whip across a cross for Zhang to complete (2-2).
The two goals pushed Korea on the back foot. China pushed and were winning the 50-50 battles far more and rushing the ball more.
Closing in on regulation time Tang Jiali went over before the two opportunities ensured an outcome in regulation time.
For head coach Shui Qingxia, a five-time winner of this tournament as a player, the title was historic as she became the first former player to win this title as a coach.