Pyongyang: Four first-half goals laid the foundations for DPR Korea’s second win of the 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup joint-qualifiers as the East Asians downed fellow 2015 AFC Asian Cup participants Uzbekistan 4-2 on Tuesday.
Meeting for the first time since the Uzbeks defeated the North Koreans 1-0 in the group stage of Australia 2015, DPR Korea went about atoning for that loss in Sydney with authority and the tie looked effectively over as a contest by the half-time interval, with Kim Chang-bok’s charges taking a 4-0 lead into the break.
The Chollima hit the ground running at the Kim Il-sung Stadium with Pak Kwang-ryong, who plays his club football in the Swiss Super League for Liechtenstein-based Vaduz, putting the home side 1-0 up with just four minutes played.
Pyongyang City FC defender Jang Kuk-chol doubled DPR Korea’s lead 12 minutes later and after Ro Hak-su had got his name on the scoresheet with the third in the 34th minute, Ri Hyok-chol put further distance between the two-time AFC Challenge Cup winners and the Uzbeks with number four two minutes later.
Igor Sergeev – scorer of the winning goal at Stadium Australia back in the Asian Cup meeting back in January – gave the Uzbeks a lifeline when he found the net eight minutes into the second half before Sardor Rashidov halved the deficit with Uzbekistan’s second with 11 minutes left to play.
However, an already difficult task was made even harder when Uzbekistan were reduced to ten men just a minute later when UAE-based midfielder Azizbek Haydarov picked up his second yellow card of the game after Malaysian referee Mohd Amirul Izwan Bin Yacoob had booked the Al Shabab midfielder with one minute of the first half remaining.
With a man less the Uzbeks were unable to make any further inroads in the final ten minutes as DPR Korea enjoyed their second win of the qualifiers following last week’s 1-0 win over Yemen in Qatar to see the Chollima lead the Group H standings with a 100% record.
The participating teams will compete according to a double round robin format, with the Round 2 qualification matches being held between June 11, 2015 and March 29, 2016.
The group winners and four best runners-up (total 12 teams) will advance to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup finals and the final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The next best 24 teams from the preliminary stage of the joint qualifiers will compete in a separate competition for the remaining slots (12 slots or 11 slots + 1 slot for the host) in the 24-team 2019 Asian Cup.
Asian Football Confederation