“Pyongyang: Lebanon grabbed a late equaliser as they snatched a 2-2 AFC Asian Cup qualification draw against DPR Korea in a high quality encounter at the Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang.
With boisterous home support DPR Korea took a deserved first-half lead through Kim Yu-song before defender Nour Mansour equalising early in the second-half.
But late drama was assured thanks to a Ri Yong-jik’s low strike before an injury time goal from Hassan Maatouk salvaged a last gasp point.
The draw keeps Lebanon on top of Group B but still leaves DPR Korea, who have played fewer games, with many positives to take from a spirited and high tempo encounter.
Former Norway international Jorn Andersen, only the DPR Korea’s second ever foreign coach, has enjoyed a good start to his campaign in Pyongyang.
Under him the Chollima had only lost once, but the team’s momentum was checked somewhat when their AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia was postponed twice earlier this year.
The Kim Il Sung stadium was almost full an hour before kick-off as tens of thousands and schoolchildren in white shirts, red ties and pin badges of the Dear Leader filled the stands.
But it was Lebanon, now under Montenegrin coach Miodrag Radulovic, that started the brighter.
After a series of raids down the left by captain Maatouk, midfielder Rabih Ataya blasted over from close range when he should have done better.
DPR Korea came back into it with striker Pak Kwang-ryong intimidating The Cedars back line, whose cause was helped by some superb free kick routines, one of which brought a stunning save from Mehdi Kahlil in the Lebanese goal.
But DPR Korea would eventually find a way past and take the lead from the resulting corner, a looping header from Kim Yu-song.
Kahlil kept Lebanon in the match until half time, as the team seemed to struggle at times playing on the Kim il Sung stadium’s artificial pitch.
Yet almost as soon as the second-half started, Lebanon was level, defender Mansour pouncing in the box and blasting in at close range.
Andersen, an animated figure in all black on the touchline, made all three substitutions by the 66th minute in an attempt to change the flow of the game.
But despite taking up some good positions, Lebanon – who look a different, more expansive team under Radulovic – looked dangerous on the break, Ali Hamam blasting over as a bevy of teammates swarmed into the box.
Just as the game was running out of time, DPR Korea struck. A hopeful ball into the Lebanese box caused chaos and rebounded out to midfielder Ri Yong-jik who blasted it past Khalil and sending the crowd into raptures.
Shortly afterwards Lebanon defender Maher Sabra, who was on the bench, was shown a red card after an ugly confrontation with a member of his own coaching staff.
But just as The Cholima thought they had done enough, a late free kick from Maatouk was swung in, somehow evading everyone before sneaking inside Ri Myong-guk’s left hand post.”
LEBANON 7 Points
North Korea 2 Pts (-1)
Hong Kong 2 Pts
Malaysia 1 Pt (-1)