DPR Korea fire five past India to virtually end their Hero Intercontinental Cup ambitions

India’s hopes of retaining the Hero Intercontinental Cup trophy was dealt a massive blow after a disappointing 5-2 loss against DPR Korea at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on Saturday. It was the Blue Tigers’ second loss on a trot, having lost the opener against Tajikistan 4-2. The hosts still have one match to play against Syria on July 16, but with no points in two outings, have a mountain to climb if they are to play in the final on July 19.

As things stand now, the Blue Tigers will have to hope that Tajikistan win against DPR Korea on July 15 and they, themselves, win by a heavy margin against Syria to usurp both Korea’s and the Assyrians’ goal difference. With India currently sporting a goal difference of -5, DPR Korea 0 and Syria +1, the chances seem improbable if not impossible.

  • DPR Korea captain Jong Il Gwan scored from a free-kick on the fourth minute to draw first blood.
  • Sim Hyon Jin doubled the visitors’ advantage on the 15th minute.
  • Gwan grabbed his second of the night on the 29th minute to make it 3-0.
  • Substitute Lallianzuala Chhangte pulled a goal back on the 51st minute but Ri Un Chol restored the Koreans’ three-goal cushion twelve minutes later.
  • Sunil Chhetri scored on the 71st minute to reduce the deficit yet again.
  • Ri Hyong Jin netted the final goal of the match in added time to make the final scoreline 5-2.

Igor Stimac made a whopping nine changes to the XI which started against Tajikistan, with only Sunil Chhetri and Amarjit Singh Kiyam retaining their spots. The most notable change perhaps was Sandesh Jhingan coming back to lead the defence. Despite the wholesale alterations, the intent to go all out for a win was clear with the Croat opting to start with three strikers - Chhetri, Jobby Justin getting his first start and the young Manvir Singh.

The match got off to a busy start, with DPR Korea taking the lead after just four minutes. Amarjit's rushed tackle on Sim Hyon Jin near India's penalty box saw the Koreans win a free-kick 24 yards away from Amrinder Singh's goal. Korean captain Jong Il Gwan stepped up and placed his shot past the Mumbai City FC custodian to give the visitors the lead.

India could have drawn level seven minutes later from another set-piece at the other end of the field. Brandon Fernandes' floated delivery found Chhetri unmarked in the box but the Indian captain slightly mistimed his header, sending it high.

The miss came back to haunt India on the 15th minute as Ri Un Chol slid in a pass to set Sim Hyon Jin free on goal. The former Wigan Athletic man calmly slotted it in to make it 2-0. The goal left the India backline shell-shocked, as the visitors started dominating the match.

Il Gwan was denied his second of the night by a splendid Amrinder save on the 25th minute, but the Indian custodian's best effort couldn't deny DPR Korea's no. 11 a second time as he planted his header in the net just four minutes later. It got only worse for the Blue Tigers as Jhingan had to go off with what seemed like a hamstring pull, forcing Stimac into making an early substitution. Adil Khan came on to replace the Kerala Blasters FC man.

The Koreans kept probing in an attempt to add to their tally, but India, with a little help from Amrinder, managed to avert any further damage till the half-time whistle.

Stimac brought on Lallianzuala Chhangte and Udanta Singh in place of Manvir Singh and Brandon Fernandes for the second-half. The change in personnel added some much-needed pace and width to the team and played dividends almost immediately. Chhangte pulled a goal back for India on the 51st minute. The youngster latched onto a pass by Chhetri and placed his shot past DPR Korea keeper An Tae Song to make it 3-1.

The Koreans could have reclaimed their three-goal lead almost immediately. It was Gwan again, with a shot from the edge of the box. The effort had Amrinder beat but the crossbar denied the Korean skipper his hat-trick. By then, the match had turned to an end-to-end affair, with both teams trading chances constantly.

Just as it seemed India might be taking control of the match, DPR Korea dampened the chances of any possible comeback by scoring their fourth of the night. A quick counter-attack freed up Ri Un Chol inside the India box and the midfielder made sure he converted.

The goalfest, however, was far from done. Chhetri got into the action on the 71st minute and diverted a deflected Udanta Singh cross in, to make it 4-2. Second-half substitute Anirudh Thapa could have reduced the deficit even further but Tae Song pulled off a brilliant save to deny the Chennaiyin FC man from getting on the score sheet.

With India pouring men forward in the final minutes in search of another goal, DPR Korea grabbed their fifth of the match courtesy striker Ri Hyong Jin in added time to wrap up the affair.

What’s Next?

The Blue Tigers will face off against Syria on July 16.

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