Korea Republic took a step closer to FIFA World Cup 2014 qualification with a 1-0 victory over rivals Uzbekistan in Seoul on Tuesday.
With the sides level on 11 points before kick-off, the stakes were high at the top of Group A and Akmal Shorakhmedov’s first-half own goal proved decisive.
The full-back jumped to clear Kim Young-Gwon’s cross in the 44th minute ahead of Lee Keun-Ho but inadvertently headed the ball into his own net.
The win leaves the hosts within touching distance of the finals, and if Lebanon beat Iran, Korea will become the second team to qualify.
On a damp day in the South Korean capital the home side started well and should have taken the lead midway through the half through Lee.
A long ball from defence was headed down to Son Heung-Min, who guided the ball into Lee but he mistimed his effort and the ball flew wide of Ignatiy Nesterov’s goal.
Uzbekistan, who needed three points to qualify for the finals in Brazil, sparked themselves into life after that scare and within seven minutes Ulug Bakaev had two two excellent openings to level for the visitors.
Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder Vitaliy Denisov skipped past two men three minutes after Korea’s chance and played a pass into Bakaev, but the striker’s shot was saved by Jung Sung-Ryong.
Another neat combination between the same duo just before the half hour saw Bakaev unmarked inside the penalty area but again his effort on goal was easily dealt with by Jung.
The game’s only goal came one minute before the break as Shorakhmedov put into his own net.
Uzbekistan felt there was a handball and a foul in the build up but when the right-wing cross came into the penalty area the full-back placed header past his own goalkeeper.
Uzbekistan were much more threatening in the second half but the troubles in front of goal that have dogged them throughout the qualifying campaign continued.
They have only managed six goals in their seven matches and wayward finishing continued with Sung-Ryong hardly tested.
Server Djeparov created the clearest second-half opening for the visitors, jinking past a defender before playing a pass to Timur Kapadze, who launched his shot well over the crossbar from long range.
Korea continued to soak up a lot of pressure from their opponents and looked threatening on the counte- attack but they too wasted chances, although Nesterov’s preference for punching the ball gave them some hope of adding to their tally.
Son should have doubled their lead late on but his low shot was deflected wide.