North Korea opened their East Asia Cup campaign with a surprise 2-1 win over Japan in Wuhan, despite being behind at the break.
Having been held to a goalless draw by Singapore in their first World Cup 2018 qualifier last time out, Vahid Halilhodzic’s men were on course to bounce back when debutant Yuki Moto gave Japan a half-time lead.
However, North Korea made the most of a poor second half from Japan’s all-domestic squad – Ri Hyok-chol and Pak Hyon-Il on target in the final 12 minutes to seal an impressive comeback.
Halilhodzic’s men led after just three minutes when Moto converted a cross from the right after Wataru Endo was afforded far too much time and space by the North Korean defence.
A lack of quality in the final third saw the score remain 1-0 by half-time as Kengo Kawamata and Kensuke Nagai both took too long to get a strike away when in positive positions.
Captain Ri Myong-guk was called on to keep the latter’s shot out with Ro Hak-su also too slow when in on goal for North Korea – Shogo Taniguchi averting the danger with a well-timed challenge.
North Korea were on top early in the second half, Hong Kum-song flashing a free-kick wide before Ri gave his side a deserved leveller.
The Rimyongsu striker converted Pak’s knockdown and the comeback was complete when the substitute headed home a hopeful delivery into the box two minutes from time.