Five-star Syria ooze class as they smash DPR Korea to top standings

The 2019 Hero Intercontinental Cup’s highest-ranked team, Syria got their campaign off to a blistering start with a 5-2 hammering of DPR Korea at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on Monday. Fajer Ebrahim’s men went behind very early in the match, but fought back in sensational fashion thanks to the inspirational trio of Shadi Al Hamwi, Mohammad Almarmour and Firas Alkhatib.

  • Korea opened the scoring in the opening exchanges.
  • Shadi Al Hamwi scored his first for the country on the 40th minute, pulling Syria level.
  • Mohammad Almarmour made it 2-1 to Syria, ten minutes into the second 45.
  • Al Hamwi grabbed his second of the night at the hour mark.
  • Almarmour scored again to make it 4-1 for Syria, five minutes later.
  • Korea pulled one back ten minutes from fulltime.
  • Syria captain Firas Alkhatib scored his 32nd goal for the country to make it 5-2 Syria.

Despite the gulf in rankings, it was the Koreans who drew first blood and impressed in the early moments of the match. Syria pressed high up the field, prompting the Korean centre-back to thump a hopeful ball forward. Han Thae Hyok met the clearance with a delightful touch, releasing Ri Un Il, who ran at the Syrian defence and setup captain Jong IL Gwan free inside the box. The forward made no mistake as he smashed the ball between Ibrahim Alma’s legs.

Fajer Ebrahim’s side kept prodding away nonetheless, and slowly found a few openings. Their reward came five minutes from halftime, as left back Khaled Kourdoghli twisted and turned his marker before putting a lethal low cross that was expertly met by Shadi Al Hamwi, who in doing so, opened his account for his country. It was no more than Syria deserved and meant that there was nothing to separate the two at halftime.

Having momentum on their side, the Assyrians did not hang around and doubled their lead ten minutes into the second half. Al Hamwi won his header deep into Korean territory, which released Mohammad Almarmour. The No.21 went past two opposition players with ease before hammering a rocket that was too strong and powerful for goalkeeper An Tae Song to stop.

It got even better for the highest-ranked team of the tournament five minutes later, as captain and playmaker Firas Alkhatib released Al Hamwi with a well-waited pass and the forward did the rest to bring up his second and Syria’s third on the night.

The Koreans were suddenly rattled and looked clueless, making Syria an even more dangerous proposition. Those fears were realized on the 66th minute when Alkhatib again found himself in acres of space and used it to play a well-waited ball right through the Korean defence. Almarmour outpaced his marker and leapt onto the through ball, following which he smashed it into the left bottom corner.

The scoreline was perhaps a bit hard on the Koreans and they tried to rectify it with a number of players attacking the Syrian half. The intent was rewarded on the 79th minute when substitute Ri Jin drove arrived onto a Choe Song layoff and smacked it into the bottom right corner.

The Koreans tried to use that goal as a springboard, but Syria’s experience meant that it was always going to be a bridge too far. In fact, Syria found time and motivation to find the back of the net once more, captain Alkhatib capping off a sensational personal display with a delicate lob over Tae Song’s head, after being played through by the Syrian No.17.

Coach Speak

Syria’s head coach Fajer Ebrahim appreciated the work put in by his young stars, many of whom were making their debut. He said, “I want to thank all the players because most of them were playing for the first time with the national team. Seven of them were playing for the first time. Had two, three experienced players. I think today was a big chance for most of the players to prove themselves for the national team. We now can plan and establish a good future for Syria football.”

DPR Korea’s Yun Jong Su, on the other hand, accepted that his homework for the fixture wasn’t as comprehensive as it should have been. He stated, “I will take full responsibility as a coach for this result. We conceded two many goals in this game. We scored in the first half and then in the second half, Syria scored two. The players were eager to score back. So, I think they lost the control. The players played a very good game but we were not aware of Syria’s counter attack. We had many chances in the front, but we couldn’t score. For the next match, I have to be better prepared to get better results.”

What’s next?

Syria will now go up against fellow-winners Tajikistan two days later, while DPR Korea will be looking to bounce back against the Blue Tigers on July 13.

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