Qualifiers - Group G: DPR Korea first to qualify, Singapore finish second
Ulaanbaatar: DPR Korea became the first team to seal their place in the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 Finals after beating Hong Kong 2-0 to secure top spot in Group G, while Singapore beat Mongolia 3-1 to finish second on Tuesday.
SINGAPORE 3-1 MONGOLIA
Singapore came into the match knowing that they had to secure a win if they wanted to finish top two in the group after they had played to 1-1 draws in their first two fixtures, but they had the worst possible of starts against Mongolia.
Mongolia drew first blood as early as the third minute, when Otgonbaatar Odbayar's lobbed pass from the right was met by a surging Batbayar Khash-Erdene's header to open the scoring.
The Southeast Asians, who were participating in their first Qualifiers, showed class as they began pushing back the Mongolians, and found their equaliser in the 32nd minute when Muhammad Hami Syahin sent a cross right in front of the goalmouth and Muhammad Amiruldin Asraf volleyed the ball home from a difficult angle.
Singapore struck again to take the lead through Irfan Fandi's header when he rose highest to connect with Muhammad Syahrul bin Sazali's free-kick in the 43rd minute.
Mongolia, who had suffered back-to-back losses, were aiming to exit the tournament on a high in front of their home crowd, and came close with efforts from substitute Altansukh Temuujin and Kench-Yakhav Odbayar in the 65th and 66th minutes but both attempts were parried away by Singaporean goalkeeper Muhammad Zharafan bin Rohaizad.
Singapore didn't have many runs into the final third in the second half but when they did, they made it count, and in one such instance in the 71st minute, an exchange of passes led to Hami Syahin beating the offside trap and he made no mistake in beating Mongolian custodian Sanchir Anand to confirm the win.
DPR KOREA 2-0 HONG KONG
The teams had gone into the match with identical records of four points each, with two goals scored and one conceded.
DPR Korea took early charge but it was Hong Kong who came close to opening the scoring on 11 minutes with Orr Matthew Elliot Wing Kai taking a shot from outside the box which was just inches wide of the left post.
In the 22nd minute, some nice interplay between Pak Kwang-hun and Jong Tong-chol gave the former space in front of the goalmouth but Hong Kong goalkeeper Lam Chun Kit was quick to stop the effort.
DPR Korea, however, broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute with Ri Kum-hyok's strike into the bottom right corner of the net, courtesy of Jong Tong-chol's pass into the penalty spot.
Eight minutes into the second half, Hong Kong suffered further setback when DPR Korea were awarded a penalty following Christopher Chung's tackle on Ri-hun and Jon Hyok stepped up to convert the spot-kick.
The onus was on Hong Kong to find their way back but it was tough against a high-pressing Korean side.
In the end, it was not to be as DPR Korea held on to seal the win while Hong Kong finished third.
Photos: Mongolian Football Federation