BOGOR • South Korea captain Son Heung-min has paid tribute to his team-mates, his coach and his club Tottenham after the Koreans beat Japan 2-1 in extra time to clinch Asian Games gold yesterday.
"I want to say that my team-mates have been amazing. I really want to say thank you to the coach (Kim Hak-bum)," the 26-year-old, who will now be exempted from military service in South Korea, told ESPN after the game.
"It has been a tough time but we pulled together and the team spirit was special. We worked so hard.
"I also want to talk about Tottenham. I had so many messages from Spurs and the fans and it was great. They have supported me so much and that means a lot to me."
Lee Seung-woo and Hwang Hee-chan scored the goals for the defending champions before a late header from Ayase Ueda gave the Koreans a fright, but they saw out a nervous last few moments to win a record fifth Asian Games title.
Son, substituted in the dying seconds to buy precious time, sprinted from the bench to embrace goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo, sobbing tears of joy as they rolled on the turf together.
Failure to win gold could have been disastrous for Son's club career as the footballer faced swopping his jersey for a camouflage kit and 21 months of national service, compulsory for South Korean men.
In the third-place play-off, the United Arab Emirates defeated Vietnam 4-3 on penalties after the match ended 1-1.
In basketball, China dashed Unified Korea's hopes of an emotional women's gold medal when they won a tense final 71-65.
Lim Yung-hui of South Korea top-scored with 24 points in a losing cause as China pulled away from 38-38 at half-time before holding off the Koreans in the final quarter.
Elsewhere, Jumpei Furuya extended Japan's Asian Games triathlon winning streak yesterday.
The 27-year-old completed the Olympic-distance course in Palembang, where he won last year's Asian title, in 1hr 49min 43sec, 55 seconds ahead of Kazakhstan's Ayan Beisenbayev with Li Mingxu of China third (1:50.49).
After Yuko Takahashi won the women's race on Friday, Japan have now completed their third straight triathlon double, as well as the inaugural mixed title in 2014.
In boxing, Amit Panghal pulled off a massive upset to outbox the 2016 Rio Olympic champion and win gold for India.
The 22-year-old won via a 3-2 split decision to take revenge on Uzbekistan's Hasanboy Dusantov for defeat in last year's World Championships light-flyweight quarter-final.
Meanwhile, two North Korean coaches, Pak Chol Jun and Pak Il Nam, were kicked out of the Games for mounting a protest in the ring after one of their boxers Pang Chol Mi lost the women's flyweight final to China's Chang Yuan on a 3-2 split decision.
Both were eventually forced to leave by police and security staff and will now face disciplinary action by the International Boxing Association (Aiba).