Australia goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic starred as his country drew 0-0 with South Korea in the East Asian Cup opener in Seoul.
Galekovic singlehandedly earned Australia an improbable point with a string of stunning saves as South Korea dominated from start to finish.
Newly installed South Korea coach Hong Myung-Bo – a hero for his role in the country’s run to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, in which they finished fourth – saw his side fly out of the traps at the Seoul World Cup Stadium.
Laying siege to Australia’s goal for all of the first half and much of the second, South Korea, cheered on by 31,000 passionate fans, did everything in their power to find the back of the net, but could not force a way past the inspired Galekovic.
Despite seeing his team earn a point, Australia coach Holger Osieck, who handed debuts to Mitchell Duke and Erik Paartalu, the latter off the bench, will take little encouragement from a performance in which the Socceroos struggled to mount a single meaningful attack.
The German will surely demand an improvement in his team’s second match against Japan on Thursday.
Yun Illok went close in the early stages, forcing a good save from Galekovic, while he then fired a long-range effort that seemed destined for the top left corner before the Adelaide United goalkeeper palmed it away.
Centre-back Kim Young-Gwon was next to threaten, and his excellent free-kick required another fine save from Galekovic, before Kim Dong Sub nodded just wide.
All Australia could muster was one driving run from Ryan McGowan, who played in Archie Thompson, but the Melbourne Victory man’s cutback went begging.
South Korea were slow to convert possession into chances early in the second half as the oppressive humidity saw the tempo drop.
It was only momentarily though, as Lee was only denied by the faintest of touches from Jade North’s boot in the 70th minute.
Six minutes later they went even closer, Yeom Ki-Hun striking the post with Galekovic finally beaten, indicating it was not to be South Korea’s night.
They must now dust themselves off and prepare for a clash with China at Hwaseong Stadium on Wednesday.
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