Lee the hero is South Korea's savior

Dienstag, 24. Oktober 2000 / 20:36 Uhr

Beirut (Lebanon) - It was the stuff movie cliches are made of. With his team down by a goal and the rain pouring down, South Korea's Lee Dong-gook sat on the bench with a sore knee, watching helplessly as his teammates struggled against Iran in the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup.

By Hamza Hendwawi

Until the 76th minute. That's when Lee entered the game as a substitute for defender Kang Chul.
Fourteen minutes later, Lee set up Kim Sang-sik for the equalizer, and then scored the golden goal winner in the 100th minute that gave South Korea a 2-1 victory and a berth in the semifinals.

"I am happy that I scored," the 21-year-old said in a classic understatement.
"We conceded the first goal but no one thought that we would lose, so every player fought until the last minute. My knee is still a problem but I'll do my best to recover."

It's not the first time Lee has been South Korea's hero, nor the first time in the Asian Cup, just the first time in four days.
After a 1-0 loss to Kuwait and a 2-2 draw with China, South Korea needed a big victory to get to the quarterfinals. Lee provided all three goals in a 3-0 victory over Indonesia in their final Group B match, enough to get South Korea into the quarters with the sixth of eight spots.

Lee's modesty belies the esteem in which his coach, Huh Jong-moo, appears to hold him in.
"He is an excellent player," said Huh, whose team will play either Kuwait or champion Saudi Arabia in the semifinals on Thursday. "He can score a goal just when it is needed."

With only six of the tournament's 26 games left, South Korea's win over favorite Iran was the first upset in an otherwise predictable Asian Cup and provided a level of intensity and drama that hadn't been seen so far.
Monday night's victory avenged a 6-2 quarterfinal loss to Iran in the 1996 Asian Cup and gives the South Koreans a shot at lifting the title for the first time since 1960.
The match saw both teams scorn close chances but it is the Iranians who have only themselves to blame now for not making better use of them.

"The game should have been over after 90 minutes," said Iran's coach Jalal Talebi. "We made one mistake at the end of the 90 minutes and we paid for it. Then it was very difficult to pick the players up for extra time."

"But life goes on," said Talebi, who guided Iran to the World Cup finals in France two years ago. "We have World Cup qualifiers in 35 to 40 days. We will work hard and we will try to do our best and we will try and make fewer mistakes."