Hong Kong hold North Korea to goalless draw at EAFF Championship
- Hong Kong will need to thrash Mongolia in their final game on Friday to progress to the South Korea finals
- Gary White’s side are unbeaten after beating Taiwan 2-1 on Sunday
Hong Kong coach Gary White said his side would need to turn on the afterburners and win big against Mongolia on Friday if they are to have any chance of joining the big boys at next year’s EAFF Championship finals.
After watching his charges hold powerful North Korea to an encouraging 0-0 draw in the second round fixture in Taipei on Tuesday, the 44-year-old Englishman was convinced his chargers had a chance of reaching next year’s finals with their hopes hingeing on their remaining clash against Mongolia. Hong Kong began their campaign last Sunday by defeating Taiwan 2-1.
White’s men kept their nerve to share the points against the North Koreans who hit the woodwork several times. But Hong Kong also had their chances in the game at the Taipei Municipal Stadium.
Both Hong Kong and North Korea have four points from two games and Hong Kong’s final game on Friday will determine which side will go through to the EAFF finals in 2019. Hong Kong face Mongolia on Friday, while the hermit kingdom take on Taiwan in their final game.
What it has come down to is simple: Hong Kong need to beat Mongolia by more than three goals to have any chance of progressing, provided that North Korea don’t overcome Taiwan by a big margin.
“We are in good position right now and there is no choice but to score goals [in the last game against Mongolia on Friday]. It’s all in our hands which is great and we hope Taiwan can help us a little bit in their game against North Korea.”
North Korea thrashed Mongolia 4-1 on Sunday, which means Hong Kong must defeat the Mongolians by an even bigger scoreline if they are to join the continent’s top sides in South Korea in 2019 on goal difference. It was the second draw for Hong Kong against North Korea since their 1-1 finish at last year’s Asian Cup qualifiers. It was also the fifth time Hong Kong drew with the Koreans from 16 encounters and White said they went close to making history.
“We really thought we would win. We were out to break the record. North Korea knew they played a tough game,” said the coach.
“We played a very good side in North Korea, who will be competing in the [AFC] Asian Cup next year. We had our chances, but they also had their chances. It was a very good game,” added White after the match, which was attended by a small crowd of Hong Kong supporters.
Hong Kong had the better of the opening exchanges with Paul Olivier Ngue’s shot forcing Ri Myong-guk to produce a save and then Jaimes McKee found space on the inside right channel only to hit the side netting after being fed by Ngue.
Goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai pulled off the best save of the first half when he dived to stop Ri Un-chol’s venomous shot in the 28th minute and Hong Kong received another scare when Ri’s shot smashed into the side netting.
Hong Kong had the best chance of the first half after Xu Deshuai rifled a shot that first came off Ri’s gloves and the ball almost bobbled into the net before coming off the crossbar.
Yapp easily stopped Kim Yu-song’s weak shot in the 42nd minute and Kang Kuk-chol dragged his shot wide just before the interval. Xu was fouled twice in five minutes with Kim Yu-song receiving a yellow card for an elbow to Xu’s face as the score remained goalless at the break.
North Korea had the better second half and came close to finally breaking the deadlock with Rim Kwang-hyok’s free kick clipping the crossbar in the 58th minute. Hong Kong weathered the storm and created a few chances of their own but couldn’t find the net.
Hong Kong captain Huang Yang was complimentary of his side after the final whistle.
“We have never beaten North Korea before so to draw against them is a very good result for us. We played with a lot of passion and determination. It was a fantastic game for us and we will continue fighting at this tournament,” he said.
Yapp was also jubilant at the final whistle, saying his teammates had done a very good job keeping the Koreans at bay.
“We were very focused throughout the match, especially in defence. Everyone did a great job,” he said.
“We had our chances to win. I would say it’s one of the best games we played against North Korea in recent years.”