Tashkent: DPR Korea and Syria kicked off their AFC U-16 Championship campaign with an entertaining 1-1 draw at JAR Stadium on Sunday.
The Syrians had made the ideal start with an early strike from Omar Kharbin but it proved something of a false dawn as from then on DPR Korea dominated before equalising in the 59th minute through Ri Kwang-il.
Syria twice had the chance to snatch victory in the final few minutes but a mixture of profligacy and the woodwork ensured the game ended with honours even.
The West Asians were quick out of the blocks and took the lead with just four minutes on the clock when Abd Ebraheem floated an inch perfect corner into the box and Kharbin rose to plant a header above the reach of keeper An Kang-chol and into the back of the net.
DPR Korea had a good chance to respond 15 minutes later when skipper Kang Nam-gwon delivered a low free-kick from the right side of the area into the six-yard box but Jang Ok-chol hit an effort just wide before Syria keeper Shaher Al Shakir had to tip over a Kang header seconds later.
Al Shakir again had to be alert in the 23rd minute to palm over a rasping drive from Kang and then deny a close-range effort from Jang as it seemed just a matter of time for the equaliser to arrive, but Sryia successfully repelled the DPR Korea attacks and chances dried up as the half wore on.
Jang should have done better five minutes into the second half when he controlled the ball inside the box but lashed his shot straight at Al Shakir when a more measured effort would have perhaps been the better option.
But the goal that had been threatening to arrive finally did just before the hour when Choe Chol-ryong whipped in a cross for the unmarked Ri and the substitute stooped to send a low heading into the net.
DPR Korea continued to look the most likely to score again and Al Shakir had to be at his best to push behind a low drive from Ri in the 69th minute.
Syria, meanwhile, had struggled to match their attacking play from early in the first half but had two golden chances to snatch a late winner.
First Hussan Omr was sent through on goal in the 85th minute and although he skipped past the challenge from keeper An his weak shot gave a defender time to get back and clear the danger before substitute Walat Hamadi then ran unchallenged into the area but his powerful shot struck the upright.