Max Verstappen delivered for Christian Horner’s crisis-hit Red Bull team by winning the opening race of the Formula One season in Bahrain on Saturday.

The build-up to the first round of the campaign here in the Gulf Kingdom has totally been overshadowed by allegations whirling around Red Bull team principal Horner.

But Horner, who was joined by his wife Geri in a show of unity ahead of Saturday’s 57-lap race, can take temporary relief from seeing Verstappen lead a Red Bull one-two, with Sergio Perez second.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took the chequered flag in third, one place ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton a disappointing fifth and seventh respectively for Mercedes. McLaren’s Lando Norris finished sixth.

During an extraordinary week in Bahrain, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent’s company, Red Bull GmbH, on Wednesday following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate made by a female colleague.

Hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him were then leaked to the F1 world a day later.

Horner has remained defiant throughout and put on a show of unity with his Spice Girl wife Geri, as they strode hand-in-hand along the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before the lights went out.

Red Bull’s majority shareholder and Horner ally, Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, joined the duo on the team’s terrace in another public show of support for Horner.

Horner planted a kiss on wife Geri before he headed to pit wall to watch his team blow away their rivals.

Verstappen has raced to the past three world championships and his crushing streak looks set to continue into 2024 following a commanding lights-to-flag win.

The Dutch driver saw off team-mate Perez’s challenge by 22.4 seconds to take his 18th win from the last 19 F1 races and, remarkably, his 36th victory since Hamilton last won a grand prix.

“Great start to the year, guys, a one-two finish, as well so fantastic,” said Verstappen over the team radio.

Horner replied: “As you say, Max, pole-position, one-two finish, fastest lap, a clean sweep. A brilliant way to start the year. Thanks very much.”

Such was Red Bull’s stranglehold on last season’s championship, that they were afforded the luxury of turning their attention to this year’s machine earlier than their competitors.

And revered designer Adrian Newey appears to have built a car which could take Verstappen to another stratosphere.

After holding off the challenge from Ferrari’s Leclerc on the run down to the opening corner, his victory never appeared in doubt. By the end of lap 11, Verstappen had already pulled 10 seconds clear.

Behind, Russell was on the move – taking second from Leclerc on the third lap in an encouraging start for the Mercedes man.

But that would be as good as it got for the Silver Arrows, with Perez moving ahead of Russell on the exit of Turn 4 on lap 14 before Sainz gazumped the British driver for third three laps later.

Hamilton started ninth and was making little early progress, complaining on lap 25 that his seat was broken.

He started to make his way through the field, getting past McLaren’s Oscar Piastri on lap 35 and then Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin for seventh on lap 39.

But the seven-time world champion, who will join Ferrari next year, made no inroads into Norris ahead before Mercedes’ poor evening was dealt another blow when Leclerc took fourth off Russell with 11 laps to run.

Hamilton finished 50 seconds behind Verstappen.

For Verstappen, it was another emphatic display, with fireworks exploding into the night sky as he cemented his status as the overwhelming favourite to march to another title – despite Red Bull’s ongoing off-track turbulence.

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes have delivered a car capable of putting him in the fight at the front – despite qualifying only ninth for Saturday’s opening round of the season in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen saw off Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by two tenths to capture pole position, with Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell next up, a third of a second back.

Hamilton raised hope that he might take the challenge to Verstappen when he finished fastest in practice here on Thursday.

However, the 39-year-old, entering his final campaign for the Silver Arrows before he joins Ferrari, finished half-a-second adrift.

But an optimistic Hamilton said: “It is amazing to see how close everyone is, and George’s position is testament to how amazing a job all those working at the factory have done to give us a car to fight.

“The car is really fantastic, and a big improvement from previous years.

“It is stable and more fun to drive. For George to be three tenths off Max is incredible and it shows what is possible.

“We just have to add performance, but if that is our platform, we can definitely chase for the rest of the season.

“For the first qualifying session to be as poor as that when you put in so much preparation is disappointing, but that is racing.”

Verstappen is expected to romp to his fourth consecutive world championship in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

But the Dutch driver was made to work for the 33rd pole of his career under the thousands of bulbs that light up the Sakhir Circuit.

Verstappen headed into his final run with less than a tenth in his pocket over Leclerc before extending his margin to the Ferrari driver.

Despite taking top spot, Verstappen apologised for what he perceived to be a scruffy lap.

“Don’t be sorry, Max,” said a weary-sounding Christian Horner – whose Formula One future is again in the spotlight after hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him to a female colleague were leaked. “You finished two tenths clear of Charles and three tenths ahead of George.”

Verstappen added: “It was a lot of fun. I am very happy to be on pole, and it was a little bit unexpected. The car came to us and I felt happier than I did in practice.

“The race is going to be close, too, but we will see tomorrow. I am confident we can have a strong race.”

While Verstappen qualified first, Sergio Perez was fifth in the other Red Bull, one place ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

British driver Lando Norris will line up in seventh for McLaren, with Williams’ Alex Albon 13th.

Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly will prop up the grid following a miserable qualifying session for the Alpine team.

Red Bull’s superstar driver Max Verstappen stopped short of providing his full support for embattled team principal Christian Horner.

Verstappen temporarily took the spotlight off Horner – whose Formula One future is again in the spotlight after hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him to a female colleague were leaked – when the Dutchman secured pole position for Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

But moments after capturing top spot, Verstappen was quizzed on how the latest allegations surrounding Red Bull had affected his preparations, and if Horner remains the right person to lead the crisis-hit team.

“From my side, and, from the mechanics and engineers, we’re fully focused on the car, and fully focused on the weekend which is how it should be and that is what we continue to do,” said Verstappen.

Appearing to swerve the question about Horner, he added: “It’s not our business to get involved in that. We are paid to do our job, that is what we are out there doing, and that is what we love doing and that is what I focus on.”

Verstappen was asked again if he still had faith in Horner.

“When I look at how Christian operates within the team he has been an incredible boss so from the performance kind of things you can’t question that,” he added.

“I speak to Christian a lot and he is fully committed to the team.

“He is here for the performance, and of course he is a little bit distracted, but we just focus on performance and that is how we all work together.”

On Wednesday, Horner was cleared to continue as Red Bull team principal following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” by the F1 team’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH. He has always denied the claims.

But just 24 hours later, a number of messages and images apparently exchanged between Horner and the complainant were sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

Domenicali and Ben Sulayem spoke on Friday to discuss the next steps.

Horner’s wife, Geri Halliwell, flew to Bahrain and could be with her husband at Saturday’s race. Chalerm Yoovidhya, who owns 51 per cent of the Red Bull group, might also be in attendance.

Neither F1’s American owners, Liberty Media, nor its regulator, the FIA, have seen Red Bull GmbH’s report into Horner, which is thought to stretch to 150 pages and was said to be “confidential”.

The FIA considered the legalities of asking Red Bull to hand over its report, and examining if Horner might have breached two clauses of its International Sporting Code.

Article 12.2.1.c of the code states that a competitor will have committed an offence if there was “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any Competition or to the interests of motor sport generally”.

Article 12.2.1.f highlights “any words, deeds or writings that have caused moral injury or loss to the FIA, its bodies, its members or its executive officers, and more generally on the interest of motor sport and on the values defended by the FIA”.

Meanwhile, article 12.2.1.g states that “any failure to cooperate in an investigation” would breach the code.

However, the likelihood of any action receded as another extraordinary day – which included speculation that another damning email leak would arrive but never did – wore on.

Horner spoke only once about the latest allegations as he made his way from Red Bull’s hospitality suite to the team’s garage earlier on Friday.

“I am not going to comment on anonymous speculation from unknown sources,” he said. When asked what comes next, Horner replied: “We go racing.

Lewis Hamilton admitted he was shocked to finish fastest in practice for Saturday’s Formula One curtain raiser in Bahrain.

The seven-time world champion has not won a race for more than two years, but he led a surprise Mercedes one-two under the lights of the Sakhir Circuit on Thursday night.

Hamilton finished two tenths clear of team-mate George Russell, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso third.

On yet another explosive off-track day for Red Bull, Max Verstappen bemoaned the handling of his machine. He finished sixth.

The Silver Arrows went under the radar at last week’s test in the Gulf kingdom, but they were quietly optimistic heading into Thursday’s running – and the second session belonged to the team that once dominated the sport.

“This has been a crazy Thursday,” said Hamilton, 39. “I don’t understand it, and it is a shock to see us where we are, but we will take it for now.

“We cannot get ahead of ourselves. We need to keep our head down and keep working on the setup.

“But I am much happier with the car. I have a better feel of it approaching the corners, and there are other areas that have been fixed and improved.

“It feels like a race car and the last two cars didn’t feel like that. It is a really good platform to work from. We have to keep our heads down and keep on chasing.”

Hamilton is gearing up for his final season with Mercedes after he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early to join Ferrari in 2025.

Mercedes have carried Hamilton to six of his record-equalling seven titles. But last year marked a second straight season without a victory for the British driver – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

However, Hamilton, in his radically revised car – after the design concept which failed so spectacularly for the past two seasons was abandoned – will take faith from an encouraging day.

But Hamilton expects Verstappen, who has raced to the past three world championships, will still be the one to beat.

“I think we are going to be in the mix,” added Hamilton. “We are there or thereabouts with Ferrari and maybe Aston Martin and McLaren.

“It is going to be close, but if Max is out in front he will drive off as he has done for the past couple of years.”

Verstappen had been regarded as the heavy favourite heading into Saturday’s curtain-raiser in the Gulf kingdom.

But he struggled in the first running and then failed to match the speed of the Mercedes cars later in the day.

“Everything is s***,” yelled Verstappen over the radio. “Like miles off.”

However, the 26-year-old remained confident he would be in a strong position for the 57-lap Grand Prix.

“It is very close and maybe some people around us have turned up the engine in terms of top speed,” he said.

“I’m not too worried about the gap to first, for example. It is going to be close in qualifying. I was happier about the long run for the race.”

Daniel Ricciardo was the surprise name at the top of the time sheet in Formula One’s first practice session of the new season in Bahrain.

The Australian – driving for the newly rebranded RB team – saw off Lando Norris by just 0.032 seconds, with Oscar Piastri third in the other McLaren.

Max Verstappen, who complained about the handling of his Red Bull throughout the one-hour practice session, finished sixth, with George Russell seventh and Lewis Hamilton ninth for Mercedes.

Verstappen heads into the curtain raiser here in the Gulf kingdom as the favourite to claim a fourth consecutive world championship.

But the Dutch driver appeared unsettled in the opening running at a gusty Sakhir circuit.

“Everything is s***,” he yelled over the radio. “Like miles off.”

Ricciardo was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2022, but was handed a lifeline by Red Bull’s junior team midway through last season.

And although times in testing have to be treated with caution as the teams trial varying fuel loads – indeed Ricciardo set his speediest lap on the softest tyre compound – RB could prove a surprise package. Ricciardo’s team-mate Yuki Tsunoda finished fourth, three tenths back.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso took fifth spot and was the first of the drivers not to use the soft compound. Verstappen, Russell, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – who finished eighth – and Hamilton also did not post a lap on the speediest rubber.

Hamilton finished four tenths off Ricciardo, but the Mercedes camp are quietly optimistic that they could have the speed to perform at the sharp end.

At the other end of the grid, Alpine and Haas propped up the order with Nico Hulkenberg last of the 20 runners, five seconds off the pace.

The second practice session of the day takes place at 6pm local time (3pm GMT) and is more representative of the conditions the drivers will face in Friday’s qualifying and Saturday’s race.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner will be in Bahrain for Formula One’s first day of testing on Wednesday.

The 50-year-old is fighting to save his career in the sport following an allegation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner categorically denies the claims.

The PA news agency understands Horner, who remains under investigation by the racing team’s parent company Red Bull GmbH, is due to arrive in the Gulf kingdom on Tuesday evening.

Max Verstappen will take to the wheel of the Red Bull he hopes will carry him to a fourth straight world championship on Wednesday – the first of three days of testing – and Horner is set to be in the paddock to oversee his superstar driver in action.

Horner is also due to speak at an F1 press conference alongside four other team principals a day later.

The opening round of this season’s championship takes place in Bahrain on March 2.

Speaking at Red Bull Racing’s car launch in Milton Keynes last week, Horner insisted he would be in his position for the first race.

Horner said he was unable to provide a timeline as to when the investigation will be completed.

It is understood both Red Bull and Horner are keen for a swift resolution, but sources have indicated that a conclusion is not imminent.

F1 bosses have called for the controversy to be “clarified at the earliest opportunity”.

Last season Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races, with Verstappen taking his third world championship in as many years.

Speaking last week, a defiant Horner said: “The process has been going on in the background.

“Obviously, there’s been a day job to be getting on with, which is gearing up for the season ahead of us.

“I am confident in the process, which I have fully complied with and will continue to do so, and absolutely deny any of the allegations that have been made against me.

“For me, it is business as normal. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

Japan maintained their pursuit of a record-extending fifth Asian Cup title on Wednesday by advancing to the quarter-finals with a 3-1 win against Bahrain.

The pre-tournament favourites have bounced back from a surprise 2-1 loss against Iraq in the group stage and will play Iran in the next round.

Goals from Ritsu Doan, Takefusa Kubo and Ayase Ueda secured Japan's place in the last eight, while Zion Suzuki's own goal was the only consolation for Bahrain.

Japan went ahead in the 31st minute when Seiya Maikuma's long-range shot came back off the post and Doan converted on the rebound.

Kubo doubled the lead four minutes into the second half when he spun and finished from close range.

The Japan goalkeeper then tried to catch the ball, but collided with Ayase, who was attempting to head clear off the goal-line and the ball was fumbled into the net.

Ayase restored Japan's two-goal advantage eight minutes later when firing low at the near post to beat Bahrain keeper Ebrahim Lutfalla.

Three-time champions Iran later needed a penalty shoot-out to beat Syria, one of the tournament's surprise packages.

Down to 10-men after Mehdi Taremi was sent off in time added on, Iran eventually won 5-3 on spot-kicks at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium. The game ended 1-1 after extra time.

Taremi fired Iran ahead with a penalty in the 34th after he had been fouled by Aiham Ousou.

Syria then equalised from the spot through Omar Khrbin in the 64th minute after Pablo Sabbag was brought down by Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand.

Syria were playing in the knockout stage of the Asian Cup for the first time and were given an advantage when Taremi was sent off in the first minute of stoppage time for a second bookable offence.

In the shoot-out, Beiranvand's save from Fahd Youssef proved the decisive moment as Iran converted all of their spot kicks. It is the eighth time in a row that Iran have advanced to the quarter-finals.

Despite going ahead after an early strike by Son Heung-min, South Korea needed a last-minute own goal to salvage a 2-2 draw with Jordan at the Asian Cup.

Yazan Al-Arab's late intervention at the Al Thumama Stadium prevented a second surprise result in the space of 24 hours after Iraq had stunned tournament favourites Japan.

The draw leaves both South Korea, led by former United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and Jordan with four points from the first two games in Group E.

"It was a very, very intense game, which we expected," Klinsmann said. 

"After we got the lead, we were too slow. We were not physical enough. We lost one-on-one battles on the field, and that gave them a lot of energy."

Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup with West Germany, was more satisfied with the second-half fightback.

He added: "We were in control. We created enough chances to win this game. Still, a tie is fine at the end of the day."

South Korea, two-time champions but searching for a first title since 1960, started well. After just five minutes, Son was fouled in the area by Ehsan Haddad. After a four-minute long VAR check, the Tottenham captain scored from the spot.

Jordan levelled after 37 minutes as Park Yong-woo headed a corner into his own net. Six minutes into first-half stoppage time, Jordan took the lead on Yazan Al-Naimat's goal.

But South Korea's pressure paid off in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. Son pulled the ball back in the area for Hwang In-beom and the low shot from the Red Star Belgrade midfielder was turned into his own goal by Al Arab.

Also in Group E, Bahrain beat Malaysia 1-0 to go third with three points. Ali Madan scored the only goal of the game in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time to leave Malaysia pointless.

The top two from each of the six groups advance to the round of 16, where they are joined by the four best-performing third-place teams.

The entertaining Saturday play came after two low-scoring affairs rounded out the action on Friday.

Indonesia moved level with Japan in the Group D standings after beating Vietnam 1-0.

The deadlock was broken after 42 minutes when Nguyen Thanh Binh pulled Rafael Struick's shirt in the area. Captain Asnawi Mangkualam fired home the penalty to give Indonesia a chance of a place in the knockout stage for the first time.

Vietnam, who have lost both of their games, were reduced to 10 men late in the game after Le Pham Thanh Long's second yellow card.

In Group C, Iran defeated Hong Kong 1-0 to secure a place in the round of 16. Mehdi Ghayedi scored with more than an hour left.

The win put three-time champions Iran on top, two points ahead of the United Arab Emirates. The teams meet on Tuesday.

Hong Kong stayed bottom with successive defeats and are a point behind their final group opponents Palestine.

Teenage sensation Luke Littler powered his way past three-times world champion Michael Van Gerwen to claim his first senior PDC title on a perfect day at the Bahrain Masters.

The 16-year-old, who lost to Luke Humphries in the World Darts Championship final earlier this month after a thrilling run which catapulted him into the limelight, beat the world number two to seal an 8-5 victory after earlier producing a nine-dart finish and a maximum 170 check-out.

Asked afterwards what he had just achieved, the teenager who beat Nathan Aspinall in the last eight and Gerwyn Price to reach the final, told ITV4: “You tell me. I don’t know. I’m happy to win.”

Teenage sensation Luke Littler started with a nine-darter as he dispatched Nathan Aspinall in the quarter-finals of the Bahrain Masters before brushing aside Gerwyn Price to reach the final.

The 16-year-old World Championship runner-up needed just three visits in the opening leg against fellow Englishman Aspinall.

Littler’s first three darts found the treble 20 bed and he repeated the feat on his return before a seventh dart set up a treble 19, double 12 finish.

The teenager was playing in just his second PDC event after becoming the youngest player to reach World Championship final at Alexandra Palace, where he eventually lost to Luke Humphries, earlier this month.

Littler won the second leg against the darts to take a 2-0 lead, only for Aspinall to break back in the third and then hold to make it 2-2.

However, Littler was not to be denied and eventually ran out a 6-3 winner with a 116 check-out to book a last-four showdown with former world champion Price.

There were further fireworks when the youngster, who turns 17 next week, returned to action, landing a maximum 170 finish on his way to a 7-3 semi-final victory over Price, who himself hit 124 and 146 check-outs as he attempted to keep pace.

Teenage sensation Luke Littler started with a nine-darter as he moved into the semi-finals of the Bahrain Masters with a 6-3 win over Nathan Aspinall.

The 16-year-old World Championship runner-up needed just three visits in the opening leg against fellow Englishman Aspinall.

Littler’s first three darts found the treble 20 bed and he repeated the feat on his return before a seventh dart set up a treble 19, double 12 finish.

The teenager was playing in just his second PDC event after becoming the youngest player to reach World Championship final at Alexandra Palace, where he eventually lost to Luke Humphries, earlier this month.

Littler won the second leg against the darts to take a 2-0 lead, only for Aspinall to break back in the third and then hold to make it 2-2.

However, Littler was not to be denied and eventually ran out a 6-3 winner with a 116 check-out to book a last-four showdown with former world champion Gerwyn Price.

Luke Littler recovered from a shaky start to power into the quarter-finals of the Bahrain Masters with some brilliant finishing.

Littler took the World Championships by storm over Christmas, the 16-year-old becoming front and back page news as he reached the final at Alexandra Palace.

Despite losing to Luke Humphries, Littler’s performances saw him fast-tracked to the top table of the sport and that included a place in the World Series event in Bahrain, where he faced Hong Kong’s Man Lok Leung.

Littler looked certain to take the opening leg after his first 180 left him needing 84, but he amazingly missed seven darts at a double before Leung took out 107 to snatch the leg.

Leung also finished 83 on the bullseye to lead 2-0 before Littler kicked into top gear, the teenager taking out 151 and 136 in successive legs as he reeled off five in a row, despite missing eight darts at a double in leg seven.

Littler also hit treble 20, double 20 and double 10 for a somewhat unorthodox 120 checkout to seal a 6-3 win and set up a quarter-final with Nathan Aspinall.

Aspinall had earlier edged past Lourence Ilagan of the Philippines 6-5, Ilagan missing two match darts at 5-4, while Gerwyn Price beat Reynaldo Rivera 6-4 and Rob Cross saw off Tomoya Goto 6-3.

Japan’s Haruki Muramatsu hit a 170 checkout in the fourth leg but eventually lost 6-5 to former world champion Peter Wright.

Luke Littler is ready to get “back to business” as he begins life after his sensational World Championship campaign.

The 16-year-old took Alexandra Palace by storm over Christmas, bulldozing his way to the final on debut before losing to Luke Humphries.

His life changed forever during that run as he became front-page news, enjoyed celebrity status and has been given a seat at the top table of the sport.

That begins with an appearance in the Bahrain Masters, starting on Thursday, where he takes on Man Lok Leung in the first round.

Littler, who could play Nathan Aspinall in the quarter-finals, is refreshed after a holiday and raring to go.

“It’s back to business for me now,” he said. “I’ve chilled out and not really thrown many darts since the World Championship final, but I’m sure that once I’m in the practice room I’ll be alright.

“I like playing all the time but after the World Championship I wanted to get away, which me and the family did. Hopefully I can have a good event here to get back playing.

“I’m in this event in Bahrain, in the Dutch Darts Masters next week and then the Premier League. I don’t really have any goals, I’m just going to have to see what the darts do.”

Littler has continued living the high life during his break as he spent time with his beloved rugby league club Warrington while also getting the chance to meet Manchester United great Sir Alex Ferguson.

“It’s been crazy. Warrington Wolves invited me down and I went to the Manchester United game and met Sir Alex Ferguson,” he added.

“To meet him was amazing and he said some lovely things to me about staying dedicated and believing in myself.


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“The holiday was great to get away from everything and we did that. My life’s changed and my family’s life has changed and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’m getting.”

Michael Smith begins the defence of his title against Paolo Nebrida while world champion and world number one Humphries begins his reign against Abdulla Saeed.

Michael van Gerwen plays Hasan Haji, Gerwyn Price takes on Reynaldo Rivera, Aspinall is paired with Lourence Ilagan, Rob Cross has drawn Tomoya Goto and Peter Wright kicks off against Haruki Muramatsu.

Lee Kang-in's individual brilliance inspired South Korea to a 3-1 victory over Bahrain in the Asian Cup on Monday.

Used to being overshadowed by Kylian Mbappe at club level and Son Heung-min on the international stage, Paris Saint-Germain's Lee took centre stage at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

While Son missed a golden chance late on and was also booked for diving, Lee scored two picture-perfect goals to get South Korea off to a winning start in the competition the country has not won since claiming back-to-back titles in 1956 and 1960.

Not that he was comfortable with the spotlight.

"I would just like to say and highlight that it is not about individual performance. It's not just about my two goals. All the goals we score are very important for the team," he said after the Group E match.

His coach Jurgen Klinsmann was also restrained in his praise.

"If you score two in the opening game of the Asian Cup for us you deserve to be man of match and [it was] a very good performance. But I have to keep him on the ground every day," he said with a smile.

The game was tied at 1-1 when Lee took control, giving South Korea a 2-1 lead in the 56th minute with a left-footed shot from around 30 yards.

He was equally clinical as he scored his second goal 12 minutes later when showing sharp footwork and curling the ball into the bottom corner.

Hwang In-beom had given South Korea a first-half lead, but Bahrain equalised six minutes after the break through Abdullah Al Hashash.

Jordan sit top of Group E on goal difference after a 4-0 win over Malaysia.

Mahmoud Al Mardi and Mousa Tamari scored two goals each in the match at Al Janoub Stadium.

Jordan raced to a 3-0 half-time lead, with Al Mardi on target twice and Tamari scoring from the spot. The latter, who also had a goal disallowed by VAR, doubled his tally in the 85th minute.

In Group D, Iraq moved level with Japan on three points thanks to a 3-1 defeat of Indonesia.

Goals from Mohanad Ali, Osama Rashid and Aymen Hussein secured victory at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, while Marselino Ferdinan netted for Indonesia, who are making their first appearance in an Asian Cup in 16 years.

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