Goa: Kim Pom-hyok’s double helped get defending champions DPR Korea off to a winning start at the AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 as the East Asians secured a 2-0 scoreline over Yemen in Group D on Saturday.
Neither side was able to break the deadlock in a hard-fought opening 45 minutes at GMC Stadium, but the holders took control after the interval and opened the scoring on the hour through captain Kim Pom-hyok.
The influential skipper then fired in a fine free-kick from distance to double his side’s tally, before Yemen substitute Muneef Jassar missed from the spot as DPR Korea saw out a comfortable victory.
Cheered on by a noisy contingent of Yemen fans in the stands, the match began in even fashion with Kim Hwi-hwang and Yousef Kandash exchanging off-target efforts at either end inside the opening 10 minutes.
Abdullah Hussein was more accurate with a free-kick from the left before the quarter-hour mark but his shot did not overly trouble DPR Korea goalkeeper Sin Tae-song who was alert to the danger.
On 22 minutes Murad Murshed slipped in Abdullah Zahrah, who stepped inside his marker but his shot was smothered by Sin Tae-song who dove low to his right.
Unable to call on suspended midfielders Kye Tam and Paek Kwang-min, the East Asians began to gain a stronghold on the game as the half hour approached and Kim Chung-jin should have hit the target when he headed Yun Min’s corner from the left over the crossbar from eight yards.
DPR Korea came out full of purpose after the restart and were rewarded with the opening goal of the game after 60 minutes.
Yun Min played a lovely diagonal ball over the top towards Kim Pom-hyok and the captain turned defender Ahmed Abdulghani before coolly slotting under outrushing goalkeeper Aiman Al Suraihi.
With the game now being played out almost entirely in the Yemen half the holders should have doubled their advantage three minutes later but the unchallenged Sin Kwang-sok failed to hit the target from six yards after being picked out by Kung Jin-song.
DPR Korea then gave Yemen a mountain to climb on 75 minutes when the captain curled in a well-struck free-kick from fully 35 yards beyond the reach of Al Suraihi.
But Yemen were handed a lifeline with 12 minutes remaining when they were awarded a penalty after Ri Il-ju brought down substitute Jassar, only for the frontman to see his spot kick saved by Sin Tae-song low to his right.
Kim Pom-hyok then could have scored his hat-trick in the final five minutes but his header from Yun’s corner was pushed out by Al Suhairi.
DPR Korea coach Yun Jong-su: "This match wasn’t so good for us as the players didn’t play to the level I expected. The Yemen team were good in defence and attack, and they created a lot of chances in the first half.
"We came back in the second half and managed to score two goals. We changed some positions and focused more on our forwards and moved players to the front so we could play more attacking. Kim Pom-hyok started out in defence but he is strong and fast so we moved him forward and he managed to score two goals."
Yemen coach Amen Al Sunaini: "I knew it was going to be tough, especially against the champions. Our preparation wasn’t great because of the situation in Yemen. Maybe we were not lucky but I’m happy with the spirit and the performance of the players.
"DPR Korea is a very tough team – I’m not happy with the result but I am happy with the way we fought. We were playing against a team that is very strong physically and they have very fast players. I hope the next match will be better for us."