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   June 10, 2002 | 1350 IST


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South Korea rally to hold US

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Justin Palmer

South Korea, riding a wave of patriotic support, missed a penalty but scored an equaliser 11 minutes from time through substitute Ahn Jung-hwan to draw 1-1 with the United States in the World Cup on Monday.

Ahn, a heartthrob among Korean fans, saved the blushes of Lee Eul-yong whose penalty in the 40th minute was brilliantly saved by American goalkeeper Brad Friedel. It was the first missed penalty at this World Cup.

Clint Mathis breaks through a host of Korean defenders to score.Clint Mathis, brought into the American team to add striking power, had put the U.S. ahead in the 24th minute after a superb John O'Brien pass sliced through the Korean defence.

But the Koreans deserved their point after dominating the second half and forced Friedel to make several fine saves. In the dying seconds, substitute Choi Yong-soo blazed over the top with an open goal at his mercy.

South Korea lead group D on goal difference from the United States with both on four points. Poland and Portugal, both without points, meet later on Monday.

"It was a difficult game and certainly we are happy with the point. Korea's fitness was outstanding. To be standing with four points after the first two matches is a good feeling," said U.S. coach Bruce Arena.

South Korea coach Guus Hiddink said: "I think we deserved to win 3-1 or 4-1 because we created such beautiful chances."

U.S. hero Friedel added: "You have to give them a little bit of credit for the way they played," adding that South Korea had put the U.S. under pressure in the second half.

Mathis, the striker with the mohican hairstyle who missed almost the entire 2001 season with a knee injury and sat out the game against Portugal, fired the U.S ahead against the run of play with a well-struck low drive from O'Brien's pass.

Unfortunately for the Koreans Friedel was in brilliant form. He made a series of superb saves, including Lee Eul-Yong's 40th minute penalty to almost single-handedly deny Guus Hiddink's side until Ahn's intervention.

Korea, again roared on by their raucous support, wasted a great chance to level just before the break when Friedel saved Lee Eul-Yong's penalty, awarded by referee Urs Meier for Jeff Agoos's push on Hwang Sun-hong. Friedel dived to his right to block and Kim Nam-il put his follow-up wide.

It was of the 11 penalties awarded at this World Cup so far to be missed.

The U.S. had weathered a strong start from Korea, who went close to taking an early lead in the sixth minute.

Park Ji-sung dispossessed Frankie Hejduk on the right. He fed the ball inside to Hwang who sent over a teasing cross but Seol Ki-hyeon volleyed high and wide from just six metres out.

Seol found himself in acres of space again 12 minutes later running on to Yoo Sang-chui's ball forward, but this time the Anderlecht striker shot weakly at Friedel from a tight angle and the goalkeeper was able to block with his legs.

Friedel again came to his side's rescue two minutes after the break, denying Seol with another smart block low-down, then following up to beat away Choi Yong-soo's shot from the left hand side of the area.

The U.S. were forced to defend for long periods in the second half and their resistance was finally broken on 78 minutes when Ahn rose above the U.S. defence to glance home a cushioned header past Friedel.

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