ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Son Heung-min was just the player South Korea needed to really get its Asian Cup campaign going.
In his first game since arriving from Tottenham, Son earned a penalty and then assisted on his team’s second goal to help South Korea beat China 2-0 in Group C on Wednesday.
With both teams already qualified, South Korea dominated possession and bombarded China’s goal in a more confident performance than its dour 1-0 wins over the Philippines and Kyrgyzstan.
Son won the penalty in the 12th minute, his fleet footwork proving too much for Shi Ke to keep up with as the Chinese defender tripped him. Hwang Ui-jo took the penalty, shooting hard into the lower-left corner just past goalkeeper Yan Junling’s outstretched hand.
South Korea scored again in the 51st when Son’s corner was headed in by Kim Min-jae. It was the defender’s second goal in as many games.
Son is playing in his third international tournament in less than a year. After playing at the World Cup, Son missed the first part of the English season while playing for South Korea at the Asian Games. He led the team to the title, securing exemption from military service.
Son could be away for up to five of Tottenham’s matches in all competitions if South Korea reaches the Asian Cup final on Feb. 1.
China faces Thailand in the last 16, while South Korea’s opposition will be a third-place team yet to be determined.
Kyrgyzstan earned its first ever Asian Cup win 3-1 over the Philippines to finish third in Group C, getting a hat trick from Vitalij Lux.
Kyrgyzstan must wait for other results to find out if that’s enough for a place in the last 16.
Iran and Iraq played out a drab 0-0 draw which meant the Iranians finished top of Group D on goal difference.
Iran appealed for a penalty when the ball hit Iraq midfielder Safaa Hadi’s arm just before halftime, but Hadi appeared to have tried to avoid contact and no spot kick was given. Iraq had some scoring chances in the second half but couldn’t end Iran’s 23-year unbeaten run in Asian Cup group games.
Both Iran and Iraq have now qualified from the group stage at seven consecutive Asian Cups. Iran is trying to win its fourth title after a 43-year wait, while Iraq won its only title in 2007. Iran now faces a second-round game against a third-place team from another group. Iraq must face either Qatar or Saudi Arabia, both among the tournament’s top scorers.
Vietnam took third place in Group D after beating Yemen 2-0 for its first Asian Cup win in 12 years, and could qualify depending on other results.
Yemen was playing at its first Asian Cup despite a civil war and mass starvation at home. The lowest-ranked team in the tournament, Yemen failed to score a goal in its three group games and conceded 10.