x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE hold North Korea in their Asian Cup opener

The UAE drew 0-0 with North Korea and deserved more after an impressive showing in their opening Group D match in Qatar.

The UAE's Al Wahda winger Ismail Al Hammadi, left, is fouled by North Korea's Ryang Yong-gi.
The UAE's Al Wahda winger Ismail Al Hammadi, left, is fouled by North Korea's Ryang Yong-gi.

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DOHA, QATAR // The United Arab Emirates restored some pride to the Gulf teams by holding North Korea to a goalless draw in their opening Group D match of the Asian Cup.

North Korea, who qualified for last year's World Cup, should have taken the lead in the sixth minute but captain Hong Yong-jo hit the bar with a penalty after Hamdan al Kamali pushed Jong Tae-se inside the box.

The Malaysian referee Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh awarded him a yellow and not a red card.

After that reprieve, the UAE dominated and missed at least half a dozen chances in the first half alone.

An entertaining first half produced 14 goal attempts from both sides, although most of them were well off target.

The UAE's best clearcut chance before the break came after 32 minutes when midfielder Amer Abdulrahman set up Ismail Matar with a perfect through ball but his acrobatic volley flew wide of goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk's right-hand post.

The second half was more of a war of attrition with both defences dominating and although the play continued to switch from end to end, there were few other real scoring chances to entertain the 3,600 fans, the lowest crowd of the tournament so far.

The best save of the match came in the last minute when goalkeeper Ri dived smartly to stop what would have been a late winner for the UAE, hoping to improve on their poor showing in 2007 when they failed to get past the group stage.

Of the other Gulf teams, hosts Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain all lost their opening games at the Asian Cup.

North Korea were one of Asia's four representatives at last year's World Cup but after a spirited display in losing narrowly 2-1 to five-times champions Brazil, they were humbled 7-0 by Portugal and 3-0 by Ivory Coast.

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