Hwang's strike makes it three in a row for Korea Republic

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Suzuki Musashi (1st R) of Japan vies against Hwang Inbeom of South Korea during their men's match at the 2019 East Asian Cup in Busan, South Korea, Dec. 18, 2019. (Xinhua/Wang Jingqiang)

A superb Hwang In-beom strike helped Korea Republic win a third consecutive EAFF E-1 Football Championship title with a 1-0 triumph over Japan at Busan Asiad Main Stadium on Wednesday.

The Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder – the only player on the pitch currently playing his club football outside of East Asia - made all the difference with a sweetly hit 28th-minute goal, which ultimately secured Paulo Bento's first piece of silverware as national team coach.

Earlier, China defeated Hong Kong 2-0 to finish third.

Korea Republic 1-0 Japan

Korea Republic got the win they needed to overhaul Japan at the top of the table, securing their third successive EAFF E-1 Football Championship title, and fifth overall, thanks to Hwang's solitary goal.

Hwang's goal was the defining moment in an impressive overall performance from the Koreans, who, like Japan, were without any of their European-based stars.

Japan came into the tournament's decisive match with the advantage of a superior goal-difference, meaning they would require only a draw to lift the trophy, but the hosts had the better of the opening stages, hitting the woodwork on two separate occasions before Hwang powered them into the lead in the 28th minute.

As far as winning goals go, it was one good enough to grace any match, with the Canada-based Hwang taking a single step to his left before sending a blistering 20 yard drive arrowing beyond Kosuke Nakamura and into the bottom corner of the net following Ju Se-jong's run and lay-off.

With Bento's side retaining their lead going into half-time, the onus was on Japan to find a way back into the contest, but Korea Republic looked the side more likely to add to the scoring, with Lee Jeong-Hyeop and Kim Jin-su both squandering good chances to do so.

Other than a late, long-range effort from Japan's Tsukasa Morishima – which whistled just wide of Kim Seung-gyu's net – the hosts held onto their lead with a noticeable degree of comfort to seal the title with a perfect three wins from three.

Hong Kong 0-2 China

Earlier on Wednesday, China sealed third place with a 2-0 win over Hong Kong.

With both sides coming into their final match off the back of successive losses, Ji Xiang put China into an early lead, before Zhang Xizhe sealed the points for Li Tie's side from the penalty spot with just under 20 minutes remaining.

Eager to avoid finishing last in the tournament for the first time, China went ahead in the eighth minute as Ji took advantage of Giovane's failure to clear a corner kick to nod the ball in from a couple of yards out.

There were signs of life for Hong Kong when Giovane hammered a shot against the crossbar less than 10 minutes later, but China were good value for their 1-0 half-time lead, and they were given the chance to seal the win when defender Helio fouled Dong Xuesheng, with Zhang stepping up to convert the subsequent penalty kick.

The woodwork denied substitute Wei Shihao a third Chinese goal, but they got the result they wanted, ending a challenging week in Busan.

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