N. Korea and UAE in scoreless stalemate

DOHA, Jan 11, 2011 (AFP) - North Korea was 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.

North Korea's midfielder Kim Kuk-Jin (L) tries to get away with the ball from UAE's midfielder Subait Khater (C) and defender Khaled Lashkari (R) during their match in Doha on January 11, 2011. AFP

After North Korea captain Hong Yong-Jo squandered an early penalty, the UAE gradually shifted into top gear, attacking a disorganised Korean team relentlessly.

All told, the Gulf side fired off 23 shots, including five on goal, against six for the Koreans.

"We didn't play well. It was our first match and the players showed about 80 percent of their skills," North Korea coach Jo Tong-Sop said.

"After failing the penalty shot, it became psychologically tough for our players as they became nervous," added the 51-year-old, who took over from his former boss Kim Jong-Hun after the World Cup.

UAE coach Srecko Katanec was more upbeat about his team's performance.

"I'm satisfied with the way we played. The players showed their character, nice skills," he said.

"They created a lot of chances but we did not score. It was a problem," added the 47-year-old Slovenian tactician, who led his home country to Euro 2000 and the 2002 World Cup and took the UAE job in mid-2009.

"If the Koreans didn't miss the penalty, the game could have been different," he said. "I'd like to see our team play like this in the next two games."

The two sides are bunched in a tough group with three-time Asian Cup winners Iran and defending champions Iraq.

"I know Iran and Iraq are stronger," said Jo. "But we have analysed the two teams and we'll make good use of it."

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, 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 UAE 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 the 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 Japan-born Jong helpless and alone up front.

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