North Korean defender Nam Song-chol, center, clears the ball for goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk during a match against South Korea in the East Asian Football Championship being held in Chongqing, China, Wednesday. / Yonhap
By Kim Tong-hyung
South Korea failed to protect a first-half lead and played out a 1-1 draw against North Korea in the East Asian Football Championship in Chongqing, China, Wednesday.
The match was a preview for next month's World Cup qualifier between the two countries and South Korea boss Huh Jung-moo surely isn't looking forward to the scheduled visit to Pyongyang's massive Kim Il-sung Stadium.
Huh deployed a three-striker attack against the North Koreans with lanky forward Ko Ki-gu, making a surprise start in place of Park Chu-young, penciled as the target man and flanked by Yeom Ki-hun and Lee Keun-ho.
The attackers created plenty of opportunities early in the game, with Yeom and Lee pounding the flank with pace and purpose. South Korea struck first in the 20th minute when Yeom cut through the right and drew a foul just outside the box.
Taking the free kick himself, Yeom perfectly executed a left-footer that avoided the outstretched arms of North Korean goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk and found the top left of the net.
South Korea nearly added another goal in the 41st minute when Kim Nam-il threaded a pass that released Kang Min-soo in the box. However, Kang's attempt from close range was blocked by an acrobatic Ri.
The South Koreans seemed to catch a break shortly after the second-half whistle, with North Korean defender Pak Chol-jin sent off after collecting two yellow cards in less than a minute, first for fouling Lee at midfield and the second for throwing the ball up in the air after the referee called for a free kick.
However the South Koreans failed to make the most of their advantage in personnel, with Cho Won-hee's attempt in the 53rd minute sailing above the cross bar and Lee squandering another crucial chance five minutes later.
South Korea paid for their failure to take advantage of their opportunities in the 72nd minute when North Korean striker Chong Tae-se collected a punt from midfield, sprinted past South Korean defender Kwak Tae-hwi and unleashed a left-footer that hit the crossbar before finding the net.
South Korea came close to retaking the lead in the 80th minute, but Yeom's attempt inside the box was deflected off a defender. Lee got another chance in stoppage time when he shook off a defender and released a right-footer from close range, only to be denied by Ri again.