Qualifiers - Group K: Indonesia impress, DPR Korea, Hong Kong share points
Jakarta: Indonesia got off to a winning start against Timor-Leste, while DPR Korea were held to a draw by a gallant Hong Kong as AFC U-19 Championship 2020 Qualifiers Group K began in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Two goals from Muhammad Fajar Fathur helped the group hosts see off Timor-Leste by a 3-1 margin, while DPR Korea and Hong Kong finished deadlocked at 1-1.
Hong Kong will face Indonesia when action resumes on Friday, while DPR Korea will cross paths with Timor-Leste.
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DPR Korea 1-1 Hong Kong
Looking to engineer a return to the Finals more than 40 years since their last appearance, Hong Kong made a dream start when they took the lead through Lao, who cut inside a defender before sending a low effort across Sin Kwang-guk and into the back of the net in the 12th minute.
DPR Korea reacted to the early concession by launching a wave of attacks but Hong Kong sustained a solid defensive block to calmly repel most of them, with goalkeeper Lo Siu-kei’s save from Kim Ju-song’s 44th-minute attempt one of few close calls before the interval.
While Thorlakur Arnason’s side took their lead to half-time, DPR Korea remained on the front foot into the second half, and their breakthrough finally came in the 66th minute, when a tidy passing move which began with goalkeeper Sin culminated in a simple side-foot finish for Ri, who was left alone in front of goal.
With the equaliser captured, DPR Korea looked to convert their momentum into a winning goal, with a desperate defensive lunge from Kitchee youngster Shan Chinichi and another top save from Lo keeping the scores level as the match approached its dying minutes.
Those minutes were played almost exclusively in DPR Korea’s attacking third but, try as they might, Pak Kyong-Bong’s charges couldn’t find their way through a wall of Hong Kong defenders, who ensured their side captured a valuable point on Matchday One.
Indonesia 3-1 Timor Leste
Indonesia made full use of their numerical advantage, scoring two second-half goals to take top spot in the group after a 3-1 win over 10-man Timor-Leste in Wednesday’s later match.
Muhammad Fajar Fathur scored twice to play a major role in the decising a match which had been locked at 1-1 until Timor-Leste’s Nelson Pinto Dos Reis was sent off with just over half an hour remaining.
With temporary top spot in the group on the line, Indonesia began confidently, and it was the hosts who went ahead in the second minute, when Fajar headed home from close range after being left unchecked at a corner kick.
Timor-Leste came close to levelling the tie when Paulo Domingos Freitas beat a succession of defenders before firing an effort over the crossbar in the 15th minute, but it was only a terrific double save from Junildo Manuel Pereira that prevented Indonesia from extending their lead before half-time.
The importance of those saves became clearer just six minutes into the second half, when Timor-Leste netted an equaliser from the penalty spot through Mouzinho De Lima, who nonchalantly chipped the ball home after being brought down by Indonesian goalkeeper Amiruddin Bagas Arrizqi.
But Timor-Leste’s suffered a significant blow when Nelson was shown the red card for a high boot challenge on Amiruddin Bagus Alfikri, who would have otherwise been through on goal in the 58th minute, and it took just four minutes for Indonesia’s lead to be restored when David Maulana’s effort was deflected in for a Gumario Da Silva Moreira own goal.
Now full of confidence, Indonesia pressed forward in search of further goals, with Beckham Putra Nugraha desperately unlucky to see his effort clatter off the crossbar, onto the goal-line and away from the net with 15 minutes remaining.
Despite that close shave Timor-Leste’s luck ran out when Fajar finished off a swift move, which included a wonderful cross from Mochammad Supriadi, by blasting in Indonesia’s third from close range with 14 minutes remaining.
Tajikistan have already qualified as Group C winners while Group G kicked off on Saturday. Group A of the Qualifiers - featuring Iraq, Oman, Palestine, Kuwait and Pakistan - has been postponed with new dates to be announced in due course.
The 11 group winners and four best runners-up will join hosts Uzbekistan in the 2020 Finals.
Should Uzbekistan finish either top of Group F of the Qualifiers or are among the best four second-placed teams, the fifth best runners-up will qualify.
Photos: Football Association of Indonesia
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