Jorn Andersen’s men came into the match needing a draw to advance on tiebreakers, and the opening minutes of the game seemingly reflected their desire to prevent Hong Kong’s naturalised attackers such as Alex Akande and Godfried Karikari from creating any major chances on goal.
With fouls increasing and tempers souring on the pitch, it was Jong Il Gwan who scored the lone goal of the match when he stole the ball from Hong Kong’s Leung Chun Pong and broke past the defender before sending a chip shot over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Faced with their first deficit of the tournament, Hong Kong struggled to respond. Alex, fresh off his four-goal performance against Chinese Taipei on Wednesday, found himself surrounded by multiple DPR Korea defenders whenever he entered the penalty area and was rarely able to get off a shot on goal.
The leaders’ confidence was unshaken in the second half as they continued to maintain possession, passing the ball around the middle of the pitch as they pleased. Hong Kong’s frustration showed, with defender Roberto Affonso Junior at one point getting into a verbal altercation with DPR Korea coach Andersen.
A boisterous home crowd numbering in the thousands also appeared short on patience, with three dozen fans rushing to the pitchside hoardings at one point to loudly protest the officials.
But the two goals needed by Kim Pan Gon’s men to pull off a last-minute reversal never materialized, and DPR Korea were left to celebrate at the final whistle as they clinched a second straight appearance in the regional tournament’s final competition where they will join Korea Republic, Japan, and China.