AFC U-19 Championship: Japan survive DPR Korea scare for winning start

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Japan had to overcome a brief fightback by DPR Korea in order to get their 2018 AFC U-19 Championship campaign off to a winning start with a 5-2 triumph on Friday evening.

It took the Japanese just nine minutes to open the scoring at the Pakansari Stadium when Koki Saito raced through to score on the rebound, after his initial effort had been saved by Kim Ju-song.

Ten minutes later, Hiroki Ito doubled his side’s tally with a sumptuous 35-yard swerving effort that had Kim beaten all ends up and – at this stage – it looked as though they would be coasting to victory.

But five minutes after the half-hour mark, DPR Korea captain Kye Tam reduced the deficit when he ghosted in between two defenders inside the area to sweep home a right-wing cross.

Remarkably, the North Koreans then equalised four minutes before halftime as Kang Kuk-chol calmly converted from the spot, after Kye had been shoved over by Ayumu Seko inside the area.

Nonetheless, Japan did awaken from their slumber after halftime and 17-year-old wonderkid Takefusa Kubo put them back in front in the 65th minute with a sublime freekick from all of 30 yards.

From that point, it was unlikely that the Samurai Blue were going to throw away a lead for a second time, but just for good measure, they added some gloss to the scoreline late on.

First, Taisei Miyashiro produced a brilliant piece of counterattacking play in the 90th minute when he embarked on a 60-yard run from his own half before skipping outside his man and netting with a clinical finish.

And, in the third minute of injury-time, Hiroki Abe found the bottom corner with a speculative 20-yard effort after being left in space outside the box to cap off an impressive win for the Japanese.

JAPAN: Kosei Tani, Yukinari Sugawara, Daiki Hashioka, Ayumu Seko, Shunki Higashi, Kanya Fujimoto, Hiroki Ito, Yuta Goke, Takefusa Kubo (Kenedeiebusu Mikuni 89’), Koki Saito (Hiroki Abe 76’), Kyosuke Tagawa (Taisei Miyashiro 62’).

DPR KOREA: Kim Ju-song, Kim Kyong-sok, Sin Kwang-sok, Kim Pom-hyok, Pak Kwang-chon, Jon Yong-song, Kang Kuk-chol, Kye Tam, Kim Ji-song, Yun Min, Kim Hwi-hwang (Kim Kuk-jin 59’; Jong In-sok 82’).