Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Wuhan: Ri Hae-yon scored the winner as DPR Korea claimed a second AFC U-16 Women’s Championship after a deserved 1-0 victory against defending champions Japan on Sunday.
After a closely fought first half at Xinhua Road Stadium, Japan forward Hana Takahashi struck the underside of the crossbar on 40 minutes before Ri gave the 2007 champions the lead a minute later with a wonderful curling effort as they took a huge step towards erasing the memory of three successive second-placed finishes.
Hwang Yong-song’s side took control of the second half from the off with defender Choe Un-chung curling a free-kick against the crossbar just after the restart before Ri also struck the woodwork in the dying minutes as perennial runners-up DPR Korea saw out the win with a dominant performance.
After seeing off China 2-1 in Thursday’s semi-final, DPR Korea started strongly and registered their first shot on target in the fourth minute, but Pyon Un-gyong’s effort from distance was comfortably gathered by goalkeeper Momoko Tanaka.
But Naoki Kusunose’s Japan then started to get a hold of the game soon after as their passing football came to the fore, with forward Seira Kojima firing over their first attempt on goal from 20 yards on 17 minutes.
Roared on by a passionate following, though, DPR Korea again threatened the Young Nadeshiko goal midway through the first half, but forward Sung Hyang-sim was unable to divert Pyon’s cross from the right goalwards from close in.
The defending champions were then inches away from breaking the deadlock just before the half hour mark when captain Fuka Nagano broke into space through the middle before delivering a fizzing drive from 25 yards that went narrowly over.
And Takahashi then should have done better in the 35th minute after neat interchange play between Hinata Miyazawa and Kojima, but her scuffed shot from just inside the area rolled tamely towards DPR Korea stopper Ok Kum-ju.
The forward almost made amends five minutes before the interval, though, when she received a short pass from Miyazawa before unleashing an unstoppable effort that lashed against the underside of the crossbar.
Hwang’s side then opened the scoring a minute later when two-goal semi-final hero Ri rolled defender Miyu Takahira just inside the right side of the penalty area before curling a sumptuous left-foot shot into Tanaka’s top right corner for her fourth of the campaign.
Full of confidence, DPR Korea almost doubled their advantage shortly after the restart when Choe’s curling free-kick came back off the woodwork, before Sung turned well in the left side of the box and fired narrowly wide in the 54th minute.
And Sung again nearly scored a minute later after being played in by strike partner Ri and rounding goalkeeper Tanaka only to see her goalbound effort blocked by a frantically backtracking Japan defence.
With the tournament’s leading scorers struggling to create any chances of note, DPR Korea upped the tempo and Pyon had yet another chance with 15 minutes remaining, but she was off target with her effort from inside the right side of the penalty area.
But with 10 minutes remaining, DPR Korea had Ok to thank for maintaining their lead as she blocked from Takahashi before recovering quickly to bravely thwart the forward at her feet as she closed in for what appeared to be an easy finish.
And as the game reached an enthralling climax, Ri again struck the crossbar with a perfectly taken half volley from just inside the area.
But despite failing to add to their lead, Hwang’s team held on for a deserved win.