In front of a packed Mong Kok stadium, Hong Kong did little to dispel pre-match predictions as North Korea secured the win on what was a rather anti-climactic end to this EAFF campaign for the host side. Chris Foley with the match report.
After the now customary protests during the national anthem, the game began in a tight fashion with neither side really asserting a firm foothold. Nonetheless, it was North Korea who had the better of the earlier chances, with Kim Kuk Bom unlucky to see his shot rattle off the crossbar when half the ground thought it was in. Soon after, the deadlock was broken. Jong Il Gwan cutting inside before firing a close-range strike at goal to put the Koreans in front. Buoyed by this goal, the visitors continued to press and Hong Kong skipper Yapp Hung Fai was called into action to make a save from point blank range and prevent the margin from doubling. As the half progressed, the home side began to gain some rhythm. Alexander Akande, looking confident after his four goals in the side’s last game against Taiwan, looked dangerous throughout and was unlucky not to level matters when he burst through on goal only to see the ball intercepted at the last moment by Kang Kuk Chol. Not to be outshone, Godfred Karikari proved to be every bit as menacing. Operating on the wing, his trickery forced a free-kick just before the half-time whistle, which was taken by Roberto Affonso and subsequently palmed away by Ri Myong Guk in the Korean goal to leave the score at 1-0 at the break.
Hong Kong coach Kim Pan Gon must have had strong words to say in the dressing room at half-time because the home side came out all guns blazing at the beginning of the second half. Karikari’s pace was evident throughout, although he met his match in the form of some astute defending by Kim Chol Bom to keep him at bay on a number of occasions. The introduction of fans favourite James McKee with 25 minutes remaining looked as though it could breathe some life into the faltering Hong Kong fightback, but the visiting players managed to break their momentum and seemed to be more than willing to stay on the ground after any kind of contact, much to the dismay of the vociferous home support. As the game wore on it was starting to look increasingly likely that an equalising goal would be found. At the other end, a header from Jong Il Gwan sailed harmlessly over the bar before veteran centre-back Festus Baise was called upon to make a last ditch interception from So Hyon Uk after So had embarked on a mazy dribble. This was to be the last chance for either side, and the referee blew the whistle to a chorus of boos from the home stands. All things considered, Hong Kong were beaten by a superior side in terms of organisation and defensive strength, but shouldn’t be too disappointed with their EAFF performance overall. For North Korea, high-profile games against Japan, South Korea and China await in the next round.
You can find a photo gallery of the evening here!
HONG KONG: Yapp Hung Fai, Festus Baise, Helio, Huang Yang (Lee Hong Lim), Chan Siu Ki (Jaimes McKee), Sandro, Godfred Karikari, Jack Sealy, Roberto Affonso, Leung Chun Pong, Alex Akande
NORTH KOREA: Ri Myong Guk, Jang Kuk Chol, Pak Myong Song, Kang Kuk Chol, Kim Kuk Bom (Song Kum Il), Pak Song Chol, Jong Il Gwan (So Kyong Jin), Kim Chol Bom, Ri Yong Chol, So Hyon Uk, Pak Kwang Ryong