DOHA // North Korea were forced to dig deep to salvage a point against a rampant United Arab Emirates as they opened their Asian Cup campaign is less than convincing fashion Tuesday.
The Koreans, who made the World Cup in South Africa but lost all three games, withstood a barrage of UAE pressure throughout the 90 minutes at the Qatar Sports Club Stadium.
After North Korea captain Hong Yong-Jo squandered an early penalty, the UAE gradually shifted into top gear, attacking a disorganised Korean side up to the half-time break.
Hong's spot kick bounced off the bar in the eighth minute after Hamdan Al Kamali clipped down Bochum ace striker Jong Tae-Se in the box to earn a yellow card.
From then on it was mostly UAE with captain Subait Khater banging a 30-metre free kick from the right straight into Korean goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk in the 17th minute.
Ahmed Khali's turnaround strike from just outside the area also found its way toward the goalkeeper just minutes later. He squandered another chance soon after when he failed to beat Ri one-on-one in a goalmouth scramble.
The Gulf side, the 1996 runners-up coached by Slovenian tactician Srecko Katanec, continued attacking with Al Kamali heading a free kick over the bar.
Striker Ismaeil Matar then volleyed a cross in front of the goal on the break but the ball went wide on the half hour.
The Gulf side resumed their onslaught five minutes after the interval with Khater sending a 30-metre screamer over the bar.
Matar fired another power-packed long-range shot high five minutes later, drawing roars from UAE supporters who outnumbered their Korean counterparts several times at the stadium with one third of its 12,500-seat filled.
The Chollima (flying horse), 1980 Asian Cup semi-finalists who are back on the continental stage for the first time since 1992, barely reached the UAE's penalty area leaving Jong helpless and alone up front.