Nay Pyi Taw: Three goals in the final 16 minutes gave Qatar a stunning 3-1 comeback win over three-times champions DPR Korea in their AFC U-19 Championship Group D opener at Myanmar’s Wunna Theikdi Stadium yesterday.
DPR Korea had been leading until the 74th minute of the game, courtesy of Jo Kwang-Myong’s fifth minute goal, but a penalty-kick from Almoez Ali and strike from Ahmed Al Sadi in the 79th minute flipped the tie on its head.
And with just four minutes of the game remaining DPR Korea conceded a second spot-kick which substitute Akram Afif successfully converted to ensure his side moved up alongside Iraq at the top of Group C after the 2012 runners-up defeated Oman 6-0 in the day’s earlier fixture.
“The first game is the most important one in a tournament like this, so I am very happy with the result,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez Bas, who will next face Iraq on today.
“Even though we conceded early, the team reacted very well and showed they wanted to get back into the game.
“We were quite comfortable with the conditions, especially in the second half as we enjoyed more possession and were able to play in a more dynamic style.”
DPR Korea tried to stamp their mark on the game early and inside the first four minutes of the game Kim Yu-song latched on to a long ball and forced a smart save from Qatar goalkeeper Yousof Hassan who tipped the low shot around his near post.
But from Kang Nam-gwon’s resulting corner kick the ball fell to midfielder Jo and he prodded home past Hassan to open the scoring for the young Chollima.
Qatari heads did not drop after going behind, though, and they began to take control of the game as DPR Korea looked to defend and maintain their lead.
And on 23 minutes, Al Sadi had a great chance to draw parity when he sneaked in at the far post but DPR Korea custodian Cha Jong-hun was equal to his driven shot with a one-handed save to avert the danger.
Qatar’s target-man Ali then went close from Abdullah Al Ahrak’s deep corner, but the striker could only stab his sliding shot at the back post into the side netting.
DPR Korea always bore a threat on the break in the first period, though, and with seven minutes of the half remaining Kim Chol-min beat the offside trap to go through on goal but his shot was blocked well by Hassan with Abdulaziz Al Khalosi then pulling off a goal-saving tackle to prevent Kim from pouncing on the rebound.
In the second-half the flow of the game remained, with DPR Korea content to allow the Qataris the bulk of the possession and look to the counter-attack as an attacking outlet.
But just past the hour-mark, the Koreans were themselves almost caught on the break as substitute Afif broke through into the penalty area but after beating Cha his shot crashed off the right post and deflected to safety.
And with Qatar continuing to attack, the pressure finally paid off with 16 minutes remaining as Al Sadi cross was handled by Jon Kum-dong to concede a penalty, which Al Sadi himself took, coolly sending Cha the wrong way to bring the scores level.
Qatar then took the lead themselves after five more minutes had passed on the clock when Al Sadi burst into the penalty area before cutting the ball back for Ali who slotted home.
A shell-shocked DPR Korea side then conceded a third goal on 86 minutes as Al Sadi again got the better of Jon, as the defender rashly brought the Qatar forward down inside the area for another penalty which Afif fired home to cement all three points for the Gulf side.
“The game didn’t go as we expected and we didn’t think we’d lose,” said DPR Korea coach An Ye-gun, whose side will now face Oman today. “Our players were still not physically recovered from our travel from Pyongyang and there was also some miscommunication among our defenders that meant we lost the match.”