MELBOURNE - South Korean superstar Son Heung-Min said he was running on empty before coming up with two extra-time goals to win Thursday's Asian Cup quarter-final against Uzbekistan.
The 22-year-old's lightning strikes gave the Koreans a 2-0 victory, keeping alive their hopes of lifting the title for the first time since 1960, but Son had to break the pain barrier in Melbourne to haul them into the last four.
Still not fully fit after coming down with the flu earlier in the tournament, Son slumped to the turf after heading South Korea in front after 104 minutes as his team-mates collapsed on top of him.
"I just took a lie-down because I was exhausted," said the Bayer Leverkusen striker, nicknamed "Sonaldo" by his club mates in Germany. "We were all exhausted. I just wanted a breather." Son's heroics were all the more remarkable after South Korea coach Uli Stielike admitted he almost left out the country's golden boy, fearing for his health.
But the two-goal hero revealed that veteran Cha Du-Ri, whose lung-bursting run down the right teed him up to smash home a second moments before the final whistle, had advised him not to over-exert himself during the match.
"Du-Ri told me to save energy until I had a sight of goal," said Son. "It was important for me to recover (fitness) and his advice really helped.
"He is a player I look up to and an important person to me," he added of the former Celtic man. "I wanted to pay him back with a little gift so I was happy I was able to do that." South Korea, who memorably became the first Asian team to reach the World Cup semi-finals in 2002, will face either Iran or Iraq in the last four.