(LEAD) Sonny scores again as S. Korea beat Thailand in World Cup qualifying match

SEOUL, Son Heung-min scored in his second straight match as South Korea defeated Thailand 3-0 on Tuesday in Bangkok to remain unbeaten in the Asian World Cup qualifying tournament. Son's 46th international goal doubled South Korea's lead in the second half at Rajamangala Stadium, after Lee Jae-sung opened the scoring 19 minutes into the Group C match in the second round of the Asian qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Substitute Park Jin-seop added an 82nd-minute goal for the comfortable win. South Korea stayed atop Group C in the second round with 10 points from three wins and a draw. This was a bounceback performance for the Taegeuk Warriors, who were held by Thailand 1-1 at home last Thursday. Son has now scored in all four matches so far in the second round. He sits four back of Hwang Sun-hong, caretaker boss for the national team, for second place on the South Korean scoring list. Cha Bum-kun, a Bundesliga star from the 1980s, is the all-time leader with 58 goals. This was Son's 125th intern ational appearance, giving him the sole possession of fifth place. Cha and former defender Hong Myung-bo are tied at the top with 136 caps each. There are nine groups of four in the second round. The top two countries from each group will advance to the third round. South Korea have played at every World Cup since 1986. Thailand made some early pushes against a scrambling South Korean defense, with Supachok Sarachat firing a shot just over the net in the opening minute after taking a through ball from Weerathep Pomphan. South Korea gradually found their rhythm with some quick passes that poked holes through Thailand's defense. In the 13th minute, Hwang In-beom sent Son Heung-min in alone with a nifty pass, but defender Suphan Thongsong made a hard, clean tackle to foil that opportunity. South Korea finally broke through in the 19th minute, in a sequence that began with Lee Kang-in threading a pass for striker Cho Gue-sung behind the defense. Goalkeeper Patiwat Khammai moved out of his position in an ill -advised attempt to stop the shot, and Cho rolled the ball diagonally past the helpless goalkeeper. As the ball headed toward the left corner of the net, Thai defender Theerathon Bunmathan momentarily stepped on the ball, before Lee Jae-sung, trailing Theerathon on the play, managed to push it across the goal line. South Korea dodged a couple of bullets late in the first half. Pansa Hemviboon tried to head home a corner taken by Peeradon Chamratsamee in the 39th minute, but the ball sailed wide right of the target. Some four minutes later, Thailand pounced on a South Korean turnover and Jaroensak Wonggorn fired a rocket right on target, with goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo punching the ball out of harm's way. Son gave his team some breathing room in the 54th minute, with Lee Kang-in once again setting things up. Lee's pass to the left wing found Son, who danced past Suphanan Bureerat and took a shot through Patiwat's wickets to make it 2-0 South Korea. Park Jin-seop rounded out the scoring with his first interna tional goal in the 82nd minute. After Kim Min-jae headed down a cross from Kim Jin-su, Park struck the ball home with his right foot. Lee and Son were the two principal figures in a controversy that surfaced after South Korea's semifinal elimination at the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup in Qatar last month. They were found to have been in a scuffle over a game of table tennis the night before South Korea lost to Jordan, with Son sustaining a dislocated finger. Lee later visited Son in London to apologize and then stood in front of cameras to do so for fans and teammates upon reporting to national team camp last week. This was South Korea's first clean-sheet win since they blanked Iraq 1-0 in a friendly on Jan. 6. They had conceded at least one goal in seven straight matches after that. South Korea scored their three goals on four shots on target, and had nine shot attempts overall. Thailand had five shot attempts and two on target. Source: Yonhap News Agency

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