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|Forward Nguyen Tien Linh celebrates opening the scoring for Vietnam.|
The result was heart-breaking for Park Hang-seo’s side, who had been strongly expected to advance further in the tournament to pocket a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
With two draws and one loss, the Golden Stars concluded the AFC U23 group stage in bottom place with just two points, three behind the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan, who played out a 1-1 draw in another clash on the same day to qualify for the quarterfinals as the top two teams of Group D.
Park deployed his strongest squad right from the start knowing that a win would be a must for the Golden Stars to stand any chance of advancing into the knockout phase.
Vietnam had the better of the match in the opening minutes, but it was the DPR Korea side who enjoyed the first scoring chance, with Kim Kuk-jin unexpectedly placing a shot narrowly wide in a one on one with goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung after nine minutes.
Vietnam concretised their ball possession seven minutes later, as Nguyen Thanh Chung chipped a delightful long pass to Ho Tan Tai in the right flank, who then crossed the ball into the centre of the box for Tien Linh to slot in from close range to put Park’s troops in front.
However, Park’s troops could defend their advantage within only 11 minutes before the parity was restored for DPR Korea due to an own goal by goalie Bui Tien Dung. Kang Kuk-chol fired an accurate freekick from 30 metres, but the Vietnamese keeper carelessly punched the ball, enabling it to hit the crossbar and touch his back to find the back of the net.
Tien Linh came close to resuming Vietnam’s lead five minutes into the second half, as he dragged the ball past four Korean players to face keeper Kang Ju-hyok, but his final shot was too inaccurate to be converted into a goal.
In the next few minutes, Vietnam captain Nguyen Quang Hai missed another opportunity with a powerful long-range strike off the post before teammate Nguyen Hoang Duc failed to beat the DPR Korea goalie from a narrow angle.
The wasted opportunities forced the Golden Stars to pay dearly. In the last minute of play, Bao Toan knocked down a Korean player inside the box, thus gifting the opponents a penalty. From the spot, Ri Chung-gyu did not make any mistake finishing off keeper Bui Tien Dung to seal a 2-1 victory for the DPR Korea./.